Many people are influenced by judgemental and sensationalist narratives and language in the media around sex work, and by the words of those who would deny sex workers a voice. The language used is rarely neutral or unbiased, most often it is discriminatory, stigmatising, disempowering, and offensive.
Words are important because they shape the way people see and make sense of the world and the people around them. By changing the words we choose to use when talking about sex work, we can begin to alter the way wider society views sex workers and sex work.
Sex worker communities are diverse, and the language used by sex workers varies, naturally reflecting sex workers’ cultures, experiences, and identities. However, there are many common terms that are accepted and used by the global sex workers’ rights movement. This guide highlights some of rights-affirming terms and basic concepts, and also provides an explanation of why some terms that have historically been used to discredit sex workers should not be used.
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