Why Supporting ‘Sex Work’ is Not Progressive and Why Decriminalization of Pimps is a Bad Idea

Elizabeth Warren ‘open’ to decriminalizing prostitution, victimizing exploited women again

Embracing ‘sex workers’ seems like a progressive policy. In reality, it treats pimps and exploiters like managers and will worsen sexual exploitation.

For many supporters of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for president — of which I am one — her comments on prostitution policy announced during a recent town hall meeting were a real shocker.

Following up on the wider plan outlining her LGBT policy, Warren tweeted: “I am open to decriminalizing sex work. Sex workers, like all workers, deserve autonomy and are particularly vulnerable to physical and financial abuse.”

Touted as progressive policy, it’s important to examine what’s behind the liberal label, which in this case is quite regressive. Decriminalization of the prostitution industry would harm the women it purports to help.

Nikki Bell is the CEO of LIFT (Living in Freedom Together), a prostitution survivor-led organization based in Worcester, Massachusetts, that provides resources and support to survivors. In responding to Warren’s plan, Bell tells me:

“Prostituted women do deserve autonomy, but autonomy is not having your body rented to the highest bidder, having acts performed on you that buyers deem too vile to expose their partners to. I am disappointed in Sen. Warren’s statements and would invite her to have a conversation about the realities and harms of prostitution before supporting legislation that benefit the privileged few that choose, as opposed to the masses in prostitution that never had a choice to begin with.”