Working Sex Words

45 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2019

Date Written: 2017


Noun and noun phrases now used to talk about the regulation of sexual acts for sale include "prostitution" (less often "prostitute," although the adjective “prostituted” seems to be on the upswing),"sex work" and "sex workers," "legalization," "decriminalization," "the Nordic [or Swedish] model," "john," "pimp," and "trafficking." This terminology amounts to a comprehensive descriptive failure. Current discourse manifests no agreement on what these terms mean and whether they ought to be replaced. Nor have participants come up with names and words for phenomena that matter. Shortcomings in what this Article calls "working sex words" confound efforts to enhance safety for persons who experience intimate penetration of their bodies as a commodity that customers buy. These shortcomings are both symptoms and causes of a continuing problem for law reform.

Keywords: sex work, prostitution, Nordic model, decriminalization, legalization, trafficking, child sex trafficking, pimp, Amnesty International

Suggested Citation

Bernstein, Anita, Working Sex Words (2017). Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, Vol. 24, p. 221, 2017, Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 617, Available at SSRN:

Anita Bernstein (Contact Author)

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

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