Social and sex industry hierarchies are deeply ingrained in human societies, often determining power dynamics and influencing perceptions. These hierarchies are present in mainstream culture and permeate the sex industry, creating divisions and stigmas among those involved in various forms of sex work. As a result, marginalized communities within the industry struggle to create a united front against their challenges.
Many people quickly differentiate themselves from others in the sex industry, drawing arbitrary lines between different types of work. This behaviour may stem from a subconscious need to imitate societal hierarchies, the desire to gain social capital or internalized stigmas about sex work. This division can lead to increased isolation and disunity among sex workers.
The question of who can identify as a sex worker is also debated. Some argue that anyone whose income is tied to sex and sexuality is a sex worker, while others base the distinction on the level of risk involved in the work. The passage of Bill C-36, also known as the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA), in 2014 led to many sex professionals identifying as sex workers due to increased censorship and discrimination.
However, focusing on these internal divisions detracts from the real issues faced by sex workers, such as housing discrimination, lack of access to healthcare, and violence. Instead of debating semantics, the sex work community could redirect its energy towards empowering workers and improving industry conditions.
The solution to breaking these social hierarchies lies in changing society’s perception of sex work as a legitimate form of labor. By working together to challenge stigmas and foster acceptance, the sex work community can overcome the barriers imposed by internal hierarchies and create a more inclusive, supportive environment.