This week, New York Magazine added its name to the long list of mainstream publications that pose the question, “Is prostitution just another job?” As usual, the article begins with the story of a white, well educated “escort” seeking an edgy experience while attending a $50,000-a-year private college. The featured woman (and it almost always is an adult woman) negotiates the sex trade on her own terms and can exit anytime she wishes. While these situations do exist, they are far from the reality of the vast majority of people bought and sold in prostitution.
Intentionally or not, the New York Magazine article underscores exactly why prostitution can never be a job like any other. Most of the stories they feature initially paint the picture of the well-informed woman choosing prostitution: The educated hipster inspired by a podcast glamorizing the sex industry. A woman with the privilege of “more degrees than most” looking to supplement her income.
But what quickly emerges is the reality of the people and circumstances on which the sex trade deliberately preys. Take Jill Brenneman, for example. In her 40s, she entered the sex trade “voluntarily” after she lost her job. But at 14, she was kidnapped, trafficked, and raped. Another woman described in the article is Skylar, orphaned at a young age, had children while still a child, and entered prostitution because “she couldn’t find another way to get money for food.” By 15, “she had a boss, whom most people would consider a pimp and she had no control over clients or services if she wanted to get paid.”