Understanding the Difference Between Human Trafficking and Sex Work

Understanding the Difference Between Human Trafficking and Sex Work

Posted By Javay- The Millennial Sexpert
Understanding the Difference Between Human Trafficking and Sex Work

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which is an important time to discuss human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking, and how it is completely different from sex work. Sex work and sex trafficking are regularly conflated in the news, TV and movies, and so many other areas of life and this conflation is harmful. If you are someone who has never had the difference explained let us break it down for you.

What is sex trafficking?

Sex trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion or in which the person induced is under 18” by the Office of Justice Programs. An integral part of differentiating between sex work and sex trafficking is the force, coercion, and fraud piece.

What is sex work?

Sex work is the consensual exchange of sexual services for monetary or some other form of compensation and is engaged in by consenting adults. Sex work happens in many different forms, from prostitution and escorting to porn and online content creation. The consent piece is vital to sex wok as it means that some chose to do it, though the reasons why people choose to get into sex work may differ the choice is their own. 

Why is the conflation bad?

Conflating sex work and sex trafficking is harmful for both consenting sex workers and victims of sex trafficking. When the two are conflated it makes it harder for people to discern the two in real-life and actually help people that need it. The conflation is also harmful because it adds fuel to the fire for organizations and people trying to eradicate sex work under the guise of it being an attempt to protect people from sex trafficking. When the two are conflated it plays a part in the erasure of people’s choice to do what they want with their body in terms of engaging in sex work consensually.

What can you do?

The first thing you can do as it relates to sex trafficking and sex work is listen to sex workers. Sex workers are the best suited to understand the differences between sex work and sex trafficking to be able to offer input on what can be done to minimize and help victims of sex trafficking. Sex workers should also be listened to in terms of policies that truly work and have the intended effect to combat sex trafficking. So many of the policies and laws that have been put in place to date have supposedly been to combat sex trafficking, but instead have just harmed sex workers. Another thing you can do is support organizations that work to help sex workers as well as survivors of sex trafficking, such as The Cupcake Girls

Though it may not seem like it, many of us interact with sex work in some capacity, from watching porn to going to strip clubs, so we should be listening to sex workers. The more we listen and work with sex workers the more we can do to help victims and survivors of sex trafficking. 

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