Book Review: Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and Redefinition by Kamala Kempadoo

Global Sex Workers is a book that I was curious in reading because I ran across it in a Google Book excerpt. I curious about one thing, and that lead me to find this book to be an impressive source of new information. So I bought this book and learned quite a few things.

Book Review: Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and Redefinition by Kamala KempadooI don’t know where to start. I guess I should start that I took a class in college about Women and it discussed many things that are difficult for women. The difference in pay and other culturally challenging things that women face. There were two guys and I am one of them. The rest of the class was filled with women. The woman complimented us on being concerned about women’s rights, and it was a great opportunity to learn about the reality that women face.

This book written in 1998 talks about the experience of global sex workers and the issues that they face. Why is this important? Well aside from the obvious social justice aspect, is that the understanding of the forces causing sex work is changing. What does that mean? It means that no longer are sex workers looked at in the view of needing to be rescued, but as capable adults who can choose their choices.

Ok, I can hear the response already. “Capable adults”? “Choosing their choices?” Yes, this might be hard for some people to read and wrap their minds around. For almost all of time, sex work has been tried to be abolished and looked at as victims. However many forces are causing these perceptions to change, and the biggest reason is the sex workers themselves. More research from New York and other big sex markets here.

I did not know before reading this book, but apparently there are many, many sex worker empowerment organizations that are seeking to classify sex work as any other kind of work. Rather than feel shamed or victimized, these women and men are taking steps to legitimize their work. Already many countries have legalized sex work, and in those countries many benefits have occurred because of it being legal.

I am not here to debate if sex work should be allowed or not. It is never my intention to say something should be or should not be. I am simply sharing the reality that sex workers are changing the opinion of this profession on a global scale. Already UNICEF/UN have recognized the right of sex workers to self determine their work, and reflect this in legal documents.

Of course not everyone believes that sex workers can legitimately choose sex work. Surprisingly some feminists view sex work as oppression and the result of male influence. Again I am not here to debate the merits of these points of view. It is interesting however that when sex workers have the chance to leave the profession due to having the financial ability to leave, they often stay. Often sex workers recruit others, or open their own brothels because they say it is a great opportunity.

What about the abuse that happens with sex work? The drug use and other things? Yes, that does happen and it also happens in other industries as well. Do we close those businesses down because of this? This is not me saying this, but another excerpt from the book. Almost every objection to sex work is responded to, and with facts and figures and the sex workers own voice.

There is so much to say about what is in the book. For example the concern about child sex workers. Of course this is a concern, but we find many surprises. For example, the UN had a report on child sex abuse that estimated 40,000 in a country, but then we find out in small print that the majority of the ages ranged from 12-25. I don’t know about you, but anyone over 18 isn’t a child, and if that is the majority, how can that report be called “child” sex abuse.

The problem is that so much of what we understand in the general media about sex work is really ignorant. It really only reflects a very small amount of real data. While I don’t claim that one book can make us an expert, this book clearly showed that many things that we might believe are lies or exaggerations. Plenty of academic and real facts to back up what is said.

So what is the downside of this book? At times it might overwhelm some people with the big words, but even if you don’t understand everything, there is a great deal to learn. I promise you if you read this book, you won’t think the same about sex workers.

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