I am in full support of rights for sex workers because I believe that human beings should always be treated civilly (with the exception of murderers) but my opinion on the sex industry is admittedly not a very positive one, mainly because I see some sex work as perpetuating the objectification of women. Women have the choice to do whatever they want and I do not wish to scoff at their rights and freedom. It’s merely a matter of interpretation.
BUT that’s beside the point of this post. No matter which side of the age-old feminist debate about sex work you take, you should have the sense to recognize that women in sex work deserve as much respect as everyone else. They deserve rights.
The unionizing of dancers in 1997 at the Lusty Lady, (seen in the documentary “Live Nude Girls Unite!” by Julia Query) was a revolutionary step toward protecting the rights of sex workers in the United States. I was surprised to find out that the Lusty Lady now, in 2012, is still the only unionized strip club. And in May of 2012 it was almost closed down.
The employees of the Lusty Lady, back in the ’90s, wanted to protect themselves from “exploitative business practices” such as having to pay for their stage time. They received fixed wages as a result. But, according to Rachel Aimee (who was a stripper herself), many strippers today balk at the idea of fixed wages. She writes,”most strippers are willing to tolerate labor violations in exchange for the relative freedom to pursue quick cash in an unregulated environment.” Aimee believes that the Lusty Lady dancers were too “ideal,” and that the solution may be to have dancers “treated as independent contractors, rather than suing to be paid like employees.” It all comes down to a matter of respect.
I think it’s a long time coming for when the US and patriarchy-abiding strip-club owners (owners that are not and have never been dancers) completely treat sex workers with the respect they deserve. Though, in March of 2011, there was a watershed moment. The US agreed with a UN human rights evaluation that “no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution.”
While prostitution and stripping are certainly in separate spheres, US championing anti-discrimination toward sex work is wonderful to see.