What is the definition of a sex worker?

SUBU defines a Sex Worker as someone who provides sexual services for money or goods. This includes both physical interactions, such as prostitution and ‘sugaring’, and digital interactions such as selling content on Only Fans or the sale of non-nude material related to sex.

Why do people go into sex work?

There are many reasons why people decide to become sex workers. People often choose it to earn a living and is the best option they have. Something to remember is that often, they have chosen that path for a specific reason. This could range from how easily accessible it is to work in sex work, specifically online, to someone just wanting to do it because they enjoy it. Some pursue sex work to express their sexuality under their own terms.

The flexibility and option to choose your own working conditions is another reason some choose this pathway, and why some students make the decision to do it, as it fits around their studies.

It can also be an accessible option for people with disabilities. With the flexibility and ability to choose how much work you do and what type of work you feel comfortable doing, it is a viable option for people who require that level of control over their work due to disabilities.

It should also be noted however that some sex workers struggle with poverty and see it as one of their only options for making money. If this relates to you, some charities do offer financial support including SWARM’s Hardship Fund. If you are a student struggling financially, please do reach out to SUBU Advice who can offer confidential support on both monetary and emotional topics.

What are the legal rules around sex work?

In the UK, the exchange of sexual services for money is legal, however a variety of activities including soliciting in a public place, owning a brothel and pimping someone out are illegal under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act. It is also an offence to pay for sex with a sex worker who has been forced into this situation. It is a strict liability offence, meaning clients can be prosecuted even if they were unaware a sex worker was not consenting.

It is illegal to pay for sex with anyone who is under 18.

A place can be classified as a brothel if it is being used by more than one person for the purposes of sex work. This would include private houses, and it doesn’t matter if the people work on alternate days.

What happens if you share someone’s content without consent?

While it is not a crime to send intimate images of yourself to another consenting adult, it is a crime to show, send or upload someone else’s images or videos without their consent. This also includes threatening to do so.

Also included is ‘revenge porn’. This can be seen as a form of abuse and is a way for someone to control their partner or ex-partner.

If your images have been shared, you can contact The Revenge Porn Helpline who can help you get images and videos removes.

The sharing of someone’s illicit content without explicit permission from the individual can not only emotional and mentally damage someone but can also lead to bullying and harassment towards the victim who could be put in danger.

It is a crime to take, make, share or keep indecent photos or videos of a child under the age of 18.

Tips on being a safe sex worker

In-person services

  • Protection
    • You should always use protection during vaginal, oral or anal sex. You should also consider the use of sex toys when they are being used with more than one client or sex worker. You can find a local supplier of free condoms on the NHS website.
    • Get regular STI checks to make sure you are healthy. The NHS website provides a list of Sexual Health Clinics across the country.
  • Safety
    • We know it isn’t always possible, however try to let someone know where you are going, and the general time you would be expected to leave the location. Make sure your phone is fully charged and you have an amount of money on you that will allow you to get home afterwards.
    • Have a plan you are comfortable with and agree with the client beforehand what you are and aren’t comfortable with.
    • Only do things you feel comfortable doing. It can be easy to go along with ideas, especially if someone is a regular customer, but if you are not comfortable with a client’s wishes, you are always able to say no.
    • Be aware of your surroundings and location. Look up how to get to and from where you are going and know where the exits are in the building.
    • Remain vigilant of changing situations and trust your instincts. If you feel a situation is becoming volatile or you are uncomfortable, aim to leave as soon as is safe to do so. If in doubt, get out.
      • If possible, have someone on speed dial on your phone ready to contact if things go awry.
    • Sign up to National Ugly Mugs to receive warnings about dangerous individuals in your area. They are an organisation created to end violence against sex workers.

Online sex work

  • Privacy online
    • If you decide you don’t want your offline identity connected to your sex work accounts, set up separate e-mail addresses and pseudonyms that may stop this from happening.
    • It is always worth considering that there is a chance people you know will find your accounts online.
    • When researching work content, it may be helpful for privacy to do so on an Incognito browser on Chrome.
    • Use unique photos that you haven’t used on work or lifestyle related accounts outside of your sex work accounts

Useful Links

If you are looking for information, support or guidance around both online and offline sex work, the links below may help you find what you are looking for.

SUBU Advice – If you have any queries and are unsure of where to turn, SUBU Advice will help you find the resources you need and assist you with any issues you have.

Dorset Working Women’s Project – As a part of Sexual Health Dorset, the DWWP works with women who sell sex and aims to support people who work in the sex industry and ay have financial issues, or misuse drugs and alcohol. They offer information, essential items, safe space drop in sessions, and advice on personal safety.

National Ugly Mugs – An organisation working with sex workers to end violence against sex workers. They can offer advice and include a reporting system.

Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) – A collective led by sex workers who campaign for the rights of everyone who sells sexual services, organised skill-shares and support meet-ups just for sex workers, and offers a hardship fund that can be applied for throughout the year.

Scot-Prep – A sex-worker led organisation who campaigns for the rights of sex workers. They produce educational resources and create safe spaces for sex workers to meet.