"Debunking myths about sex work": Melissa Gira Grant interviewed for New York Magazine

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Sex work has long been a hotly debated issue among feminists and labor activists. In a recent interview with New York Magazine's "The Cut", Melissa Gira Grant, author of Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work, holds the media accountable for perpetuating some of the most pernicious myths about the industry. 

I think there’s an effort to be more sensitive when reporting on human trafficking, which I think is really important, but that trend often leads to conflating sex trafficking and sex work, and absorbing a lot of the myths that I think we already have about sex workers — that they’re all victims, they’re all coerced, and they need us to intervene and rescue them from their situation.


Too often, people like Nicholas Kristof position themselves as the saviors of the purported victims of human trafficking, which, according to Grant, erases the agency of sex workers while bolstering a kind of heroic capitalism: 

Now [Kristof] has this whole branded enterprise — he’s built a career of speaking for people he positions as voiceless. That’s really different than listening to a real cross section of people and hearing what they have to say, instead just using them as props in your travelogue. 

Increased intervention, whether from Kristof or others, often results in heavier policing of sex workers, punishing the very people these efforts supposedly protect.  

Grant has additionally had to defend herself as an author of such a critical perspective, since some have pegged her as too left — and therefore too privileged — to speak for other sex workers. 

That’s something that happens in every movement: The people you see on TV are always the people who can take the risk to get fired for their organizing, and for every one of them there are hundreds of people who couldn’t afford to go on strike that day.

Grant's interview, as well as her book, pose hard-hitting questions for how we think today about sex work, and labor in general. 

Read the entirety of Grant's interview at New York Magazine.

Playing the Whore is part of the Verso's Jacobin series, and is forthcoming in March.

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