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What is Sex Work?

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Updated October 16, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

Sex work is a new, more politically correct and more inclusive term for engaging in sexual activity for money or otherwise working in the sex industry. Depending on the work, activities might include:

  • physical contact with a paying client
  • creating or being the subject of sex-related photos or videos
  • engaging in phone sex
  • participating in live sex shows

Opinions on sex work are strongly divided between those who believe sex work is a valid career choice, and those who believe sex work exploits the men, women and children working in the sex industry. In some cases, such as enforced sex slavery, sex work is clearly exploitative. In other cases, such as when an adult chooses a career in the sex industry despite having alternative options, it is less clear cut. Some sources consider sex addiction to be an issue for both clients and workers of the sex trade. Many people with drug addictions are also involved in sex work.

Pronunciation: sex work
Also Known As: prostitution, call girl, house boy, sex trade work, stripper
Examples:
Jilly became involved in sex work after developing an expensive cocaine addiction.
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