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Melissa Gira Grant, former sex worker and author of the new book Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work, argues for a more holistic understanding of individuals who work as prostitutes. Rather than reduce these individuals to their profession, let alone our opinion of their profession, we should recognize that like everyone else, they enjoy certain parts of their job and dislike other parts. This view departs from the “sex wars” of the 80s and 90s when the question of sex work was posed in stark terms of either exploitation or empowerment.
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Perhaps most troubling are the economic realities that make prostitution an attractive option for some individuals. In Cambodia, for example, sex workers can make better money as a prostitute than as a seamstress in a garment factor. A peculiar feature of sex work, however, is that no consumer-based movement has self-generated to demand ethical conditions, rights, and fair pay for workers. Of course it may be difficult to empathize with workers in an industry whose job it is to immediately fulfill your desires as if they were their own.