So there’s this idea floating around that, if sexwork were decriminalized, it would mean that sexworkers wouldn’t be able to make as good a wage doing their jobs.

I think this stems directly from the idea that escorts charge as much as they do either (a) because the work is “degrading” and, thus, you have to offer huge amounts of money to someone in order to get them to do it, or (b) because of the legal risks involved in doing the work.

Now (a) is actually really easy to write off. Talk to anyone who’s worn a mascot suit all day for minimum wage, and then ask about “degrading”. To tweak a phrase from http://mirhasoleil.wordpress.com/bio/ Mirha-Soleil Ross, “If I’m feeling oppressed at $260 per hour, I need a reality check”.

It’s a little harder to just dismiss (b), however, because, yeah, when work is risky, it tends to pay more (or else it’s assumed that it’s okay to charge more – either way). The risks – legal or otherwise – associated with sexwork are due entirely to its criminalization so… if you get rid of the criminalization part, doesn’t that mean you have to drop your prices?

Not so much.

Follow my logic here.

I figure we can look at it from two perspectives. One involves looking at sexwork as a helping profession, and the other involves looking at it as a luxury profession.

Now Jade Pichette and Rachel Wotton have both talked about sexwork within the context of it being a helping profession (go watch the videos, it’ll give you some of that context). Helping professionals also work as nurses, physicians, massage therapists, nurse practitioners, physiotherapists, social workers, psychologists, counselors, psychotherapists, and other folks like that there. Now, obviously, there’s a broad spectrum of wages among these professions. A social worker in a non-profit clinic makes a lot less than a private therapist by a fairly significant amount, the same way a fetish model makes less than an escort who offers GFE.
But let’s compare.
An escort who offers GFE might charge $200-$300 per hour for one-on-one appointments; or maybe $100-$150 as a social rate.
A private therapist who specializes in sexuality and relationship counseling might charge $150-$200 per hour of talk-therapy.
People in both professions help their clients get comfortable with their sexuality, and with interacting sexually/romantically with others, through experimenting and exploring in a safe, non-judgemental environment. You’ll also note that the wages are pretty comparable for the level of emotional and physical intimacy involved.

So that’s one way of looking at it.

The other way of looking at sexwork – the way I’m personally more likely to look at it, honestly – is as a luxury profession. Think about it:
Someone might hire a GFE escort – or go to a rub-and-tug parlour, for that matter – and have the same kind of mood lighting, soft background music, and sensual touch that one gets at an upscale spa for about the same price (or possibly a whole lot less – have you seen the prices at Holtz??)
You can hire a fetish/erotic model and take photos that depict exactly what you want to be jacking off to, the same way that some folks hire a photographer to take Glamour Photos of themselves so that they have this lovely reminder that, yes, they are in fact All That.

Personally, I really like looking at sexwork through this lens – mostly because it ditches the “moralistic” view that sex is only okay if there’s more to it than “just sex”: If we’re trying to have babies, or doing it For Love, or Helping The Disadvantaged, or otherwise making it okay-by-association, then sex itself, pleasure itself, remains “not okay”.
And I’m not cool with that.
I find that anti-sex, anti-pleasure attitudes tend to line up way too well with attitudes like “women can avoid being raped if they don’t dress like sluts” or “well… if you’re gay because of some flaw in your genetics and you really can’t help it…” and other garbage like that there. The stuff that our culture gets from its Christian-cosmological roots that says sex, and all other forms of pleasure, are Very Bad Things that, if we were really good people, we wouldn’t want (and so people who want/do them, or who aren’t ashamed of wanting/doing them, or who are assumed to want/do them based on the assumers ideas about what “a slut” or “a fag” looks like… must be Bad, and therefore must deserve to have Bad Things – like physical/sexual assault, homelessness, and alienation – happen to them).

As a sensual hedonist – someone who thrives on music, movement, sweat, scent, taste, and touch, and all that other glorious stuff – I would much rather look at sexwork – all of it, not just the workers whose clients are open about seeing them in order to get comfortable with sex as part of their recovery from, say, childhood abuse survival – as a collective of professions that bring more pleasure into the world. Rather than seeing some sexworkers accepted because their work involves “rehabilitating sexual dysfunction” or “saving innocent spouses from having to engage in, or acknowledge, the kinky proclivities of their partners” or whatever, while everyone else gets thrown under the bus, I’d like to see all sexworkers accepted as people whose jobs entail providing pleasure to their clients, and to have that be good in and of itself.

TTFN,
Ms Syren.