Most people are voiceless because no one is letting them talk or listening to them when they do. There is a lot to be said for quitting being the voice of the voiceless and letting people speak for themselves. But not by those seeking to abolish the sex trade. Words are put into people's mouths when they can be, and when they can't, those people are silenced and dismissed.
I've been listening to current debates about pornography - most recently about young children watching it - and it got me thinking. For feminists, pornography is one of those particularly contentious issues, along with prostitution and the other sexual industries. Really, anything with a sexual element is quite a contested terrain.
For me, being a feminist is about respecting women's choices, whatever they may be. If a woman over the legal age requirement wants to voluntarily participate in the porn industry, that's fine. If she doesn't, that's fine as well. Young women like 'Lauren A', Duke University's freshman porn actress, are being publicly shamed for exposing their bodies on camera. It seems like the idea that a woman could have full control over her body is still shocking to some. When people accuse her of taking part in an industry that 'degrades' women, they don't realise their comments are degrading in themselves, as they refuse to acknowledge her individual voice and bodily autonomy.
Blanket criminalisation clearly isn't working. It doesn't address the core problem, and sometimes perpetuates it; prostitutes are convicted, criminalised, have less of a route out than before, and thus return to the sex industry. A subterranean economy is created, which is demeaning at best and dangerous at worst. So, if the current system is failing then where do we go from here? This is the question I've tried to answer through my work at the EU. There are two alternatives for the UK. The first is the well-publicised Dutch model, which legalises both being a sex worker and using one.
Despite being the poster nation for sexual equality, Sweden's laws on sex work and attitudes towards it are woefully patriarchal. The purchase of sex is illegal and the prevailing view is that sex work is a form of self-harm and women who choose to work in the sex industry are victims without agency or reason.