Commercial Sex

Commercial sex is the engagement in sexual activity in exchange for money, goods, or other negotiated items. The key thing is that someone is engaging in sexual activity for some kind of imbursement.

All types of people work in the sex industry. Sometimes this is in the short term (to fund University or pay off a debt), for others, sex work is something they choose to do long term.

Legal aspects

The UK legal system surrounding sex work can be very confusing. In brief, working alone indoors is legal. ‘Pimping’ or running an agency or brothel is illegal.  There is no legal definition of a brothel but generally it is understood to be a place that more than one person meets for the purposes of illicit sexual intercourse.

It is not illegal to sell sex at a brothel provided the sex worker is not involved in management or control of the brothel i.e. It is legal to work as a sex worker in a brothel as long as you are not involved in the running of the premises.  A house occupied by one person, and used by them alone for prostitution, is not a brothel, 

On-street work or soliciting is illegal.

Sex workers can be male, female or trans and may come from a variety of backgrounds (For an up to date list of all terms related to sexual identity and sexual orientation, these can be found at stonewall). Sometimes sex workers adopt a different persona for the work they undertake, this persona may be very different to their personal life e.g. a ‘straight’ man may engage in ‘gay’ sex for work.

Keeping Safe

If you are working in the sex industry there are risk factors that need to be considered in order to keep yourself safe industry. This applies however you choose to work, (in a brothel, on the street, independently, in a club).

It is important to trust your instincts but, if you get high, drunk or stoned when working, your judgement will be impaired. Practicing safer sex with clients will protect you from STIs, blood borne viruses such as HIV and unwanted pregnancy. Even if your client is willing to pay more for having sex without condoms you must consider the increased risks you are putting yourself at.

Sex worker support

If you are working in the sex industry it is important to have regular sexual health check-ups. You can also receive vaccinations for Hepatitis B (an infection of your liver). These services are provided for free at your local sexual health clinic.

Rahab (Restoring all Hope and Belief),  is a local organisation who provide help advocacy or support for anyone involved in on- or off-street prostitution, the commercial sex industry and victims of human trafficking. Rahab provide both day and night outreach and their volunteers provide vital items (food & drink, contraception, rape alarms) and support to the men and women working on-street.

SWISH (Sex Workers into Sexual Health) is a London based charity that knows the sex industry – they haven’t seen it all, but they’ve seen a lot. They provide confidential services and their trained support workers can meet you on a one-to-one basis.

National Ugly Mugs (NUM) is a scheme developed by The UK Network for Sex Work Projects (UKNSWP), which aims to keep sex workers safer from abuse at work by sharing accounts or ‘alerts’ of dodgy punters. NUM alerts can be reported confidentially (you can use a fake name to protect your identity) and reporting does not mean that you have to provide evidence or deal with the police if you don’t want to. The scheme is about alerting other sex workers and sharing information to keep everyone safer and to hopefully help deter bad punters. They also have a magazine to update you about incidents if you’re not online.
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Sexual Exploitation

Sexual exploitation is when someone is providing sex work when they have been manipulated or coerced into sexual activities of any kind for another person’s gain. This can include human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation or grooming involving sexual ‘favours’.

If you or someone you know or may suspect could be involved or victim to the description above help and support is available for various subsequent needs, including Mental Health, Immigration Support and other practical types of Support.