As an English teacher, I’ve been a lifelong learner of the power of words. As a Christian, I have learned that the words have the power of life and death. The Bible mentions the use of the “tongue” more than 100 times. Most of those are in reference to taming the tongue, speaking words of life, and using our tongues to further the Spirit of the Lord.
In recent years, words have truly meant life or death for thousands of victims. No, not prostitution. Not victim. Not human trafficking. Not slavery.
These words seem harmless, but they are normalizing prostitution, brothels, pornography, and other sexually exploitative practices. By using a term like sex work we are perpetuating this idea that it is normal and acceptable. No different than a job like teaching or grocery bagging. It is a way for those in the industry to win over those who may not agree with their practices.
Sex work is not the only vocabulary that has been changing over the years. Those once referred to as “porn stars,” now hold the title of Adult Film Actress/Actor. Those who once were known as “strippers” are now identifying with the term “exotic dancer.” Why is this happening? Because they are trying to normalize. They see that there are negative connotations to words like “prostitution, porn star, and stripper.” By giving them less crass names, we are more accepting of their titles.
Countries like Germany, New Zealand, and the Netherlands have used this concept of a job just like any other to decriminalize and legalize prostitution. It is even being pushed in America. By normalizing the words, we begin to change the associations in our brains. Prostitute. Hooker. Porn Star. These are dirty. Shameful. Ugly. But sex worker, exotic dancer, adult film actress – they don’t taste as poorly on the tongue. Then, the actions of these “jobs,” no longer seem as bad either. We become numb to it and ignore what it actually is – a crime against women. We ignore the abuse. We ignore the fact that statistically, it is the most deadly job in the world. Supporting the use of these words is a death sentence.
It is imperative that we make sure that when we talk about human trafficking, prostitution, etc, that we use the proper terms. Otherwise, we lose respect. We remove the victimization from this world, and replace it with “sexual liberation.” We begin to believe it is a victimless crime. There isn’t any danger when they want to be there. Once we begin using slang, once we begin giving them normalized titles, it all becomes just another job. Before we know it, we have fallen into the trap of decriminalization and legalization.