Resource Companion

Open To Debate — Is It Ok To Pay For Sex?


Listen: The debate premiered on June 7, 2024 across 300 syndicated NPR stations.

Read: Kaytlin Bailey’s opening remarks from Open To Debate — Is It Ok To Pay For Sex?



Decriminalizing Sex Work is the Only Policy That Reduces Violence

New WHO guidelines urge decriminalization of sex work (The New Humanitarian, December 18, 2012) — “The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has released new guidelines – titled ‘Prevention and Treatment of HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections for Sex Workers in Low- and Middle-Income Countries’ – recommending, among other things, that countries should work towards decriminalizing sex work.”

Amnesty International publishes policy and research on protection of sex workers’ rights (Amnesty International, May 26, 2016) — Report recommending decriminalizing sex work.

Why Sex Work Should Be Decriminalized (Human Rights Watch, August 7, 2019) — “The research, including extensive consultations with sex workers and organizations that work on the issue, has shaped the Human Rights Watch policy on sex work: Human Rights Watch supports the full decriminalization of consensual adult sex work.”

Landmark UN Report Calls for Sex Work Decriminalization (Human Rights Watch, November 28, 2023) — “The evidence is clear and the network of institutions willing to take a rights-based stance is growing. Decriminalization is the path forward for those interested in rights and justice for all women.”

US Department of State: About Human Trafficking — “In the United States, traffickers compel victims to engage in commercial sex and to work in both legal and illicit industries and sectors, including in hospitality, traveling sales crews, agriculture, janitorial services, construction, landscaping, restaurants, factories, care for persons with disabilities, salon services, massage parlors, retail services, fairs and carnivals, peddling and begging, drug smuggling and distribution, religious institutions, child care, and domestic work.”


Decriminalization of Sex Work in New Zealand & Parts of Australia

What Does Decriminalized Sex Work Actually Look Like? (Reason, May 24, 2024) — “I recently spent six weeks touring my one-woman show, Whore’s Eye View, in Australia and New Zealand, where I met sex workers, clients, and brothel owners who negotiate sexual services openly without fear of arrest… Here’s the picture that emerged: Decriminalization has reduced violence and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and it has made it easier for sex workers to hold people accountable who try to hurt them.”

Prostitution law reform in New Zealand (New Zealand Parliament, July 10, 2012) — “In June 2003, New Zealand became the first country to decriminalise sex work with the passage of the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) 2003. This paper briefly outlines the history of prostitution in New Zealand, and the law, before examining the impact of the PRA on the number of sex workers, their working conditions and location of work.”

Christchurch School of Medicine study: methodology and methods (Taking the Crime Out of Sex Work, May 2010) — “This chapter offers a detailed account of the methodological approach and the methods used by the University of Otago, Christchurch School of Medicine (CSoM) in examining the implication of the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) on the health and safety practices of sex workers.”

A decade of decriminalization: Sex work ‘down under’ but not underground (British Society of Criminology, February 14, 2014) — “New Zealand was the first country to decriminalize sex work. This article provides a reflective commentary on decriminalization, its implementation and its impacts in New Zealand. New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective (NZPC) was the key player in getting decriminalization on the policy agenda and their effective networking played an essential role to the successful campaign for legislative change.”

Decriminalization of Sex Work Is Not Associated with More Men Paying for Sex: Results from the Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships (Sexuality Research and Social Policy, February 24, 2016) — “It has been claimed that the decriminalization of sex work may result in its proliferation, but there is no evidence to prove or disprove this claim. We investigated whether decriminalization was associated with the prevalence of paying for sex.”

Community Guide: Decriminalisation (NWSP) — Reflections and recommendations from decriminalization in New Zealand as well as New South Wales and Northern Territory in Australia.

The Sex Industry In New South Wales: A Report To The NSW Ministry of Health (The Kirby Institute, 2012) — A report prepared for the Ministry of Health of New South Wales after seventeen years of decriminalized sex work. According to New South Wales, decriminalizing sex work improved public health and safety.

Sex work decriminalised in Queensland after decades of campaigning (The Guardian, May 2, 2024) — Queensland decriminalized sex work in 2024, making it the fourth jurisdiction in Australia to do so after New South Wales (1995), Northern Territory (2019), and Victoria (2022).

Report shows compelling reasons to decriminalise sex work (The University of Queensland, October 20, 2017) — “We recently studied the health and safety of sex workers in Western Australia. While such a study was conducted in 2007, we were interested to see if the sex industry had changed in the past decade, and to learn more about the intersection of the law and health and safety for sex workers in WA. While the study was undertaken in WA, it would have implications nationwide.”


Where Else Has Sex Work Been Decriminalized?

When Rhode Island Accidentally Legalized Prostitution, Rape and STIs Decreased Sharply (The Washington Post, July 17, 2014) — Rhode Island stopped arresting people for indoor prostitution from 2003 – 2009 and a 2017 study found that reported rapes went down 30% and gonorrhea infections were reduced by 40% during this period. This study suggests that decriminalizing sex work reduces violence and STIs.

‘Historic’: Belgium first in the world to approve labour law for sex workers (The Brussels Times, May 6, 2024) — “After Belgium became the first country in Europe to decriminalise sex work in 2022, it is now the first in the world to approve a labour law for sex workers with an employment contract, announced the union for sex workers in Belgium (UTSOPI).”


Consequences of Criminalization & “End Demand” Policies

Sex Work Criminalization Is Barking Up the Wrong Tree (Ine Vanwesenbeeck, October 27, 2016) — “It is illustrated how criminalization and repression make it less likely that commercial sex is worker-controlled, non-abusive, and non-exploitative. Criminalization is seriously at odds with human rights and public health principles.”

Sex work law change ’caused spike in demand’ (BBC, September 19, 2019) — The Human Trafficking and Exploitations Act of 2015, mimicking Sweden’s end demand model, criminalized the purchase of sex rather than the sale of commercial sex in Northern Ireland. Between 2015 and 2018, there was a significant increase in the number of reports of violent crimes committed against sex workers. Only 11% of clients said that the law would cause them to stop purchasing sex, and 76% of those surveyed felt that it had no impact on the ease with which they purchase sex. The data suggests that end demand policies are correlated with an increase in abusive behavior and violence directed at sex workers.

Norway: The human cost of ‘crushing’ the market: Criminalization of sex work in Norway (Amnesty International, May 26, 2016) — “The issues described in this report demonstrate that Norway is not implementing its international obligations to respect, protect and fulfil [sic] the rights of people who sell sex. Amnesty International spoke with sex workers who had experienced violations of the right to housing, the right to security of person, the right to equal protection of the law, the right to health, the right to non-discrimination and the right to privacy. Amnesty International is therefore calling on the Norwegian authorities to change its approach and instead place the protection of the human rights of all people who sell sex at the centre of its responses to commercial sex.”

What Do Sex Worker’s Think About The French Prostitution Act? (April 2018) — France implemented end demand laws in 2016, immediately sex workers were pushed the most vulnerable further into poverty. Violence of all kinds increased, and although “exit programs” existed, support was only given to those who agreed to stop doing sex work. This is a qualitative study from NSWP focused on the viewpoints of sex workers themselves who are directly affected by the law.

Twenty Years Of Failing Sex Workers: A community report on the impact of the 1999 Swedish Sex Purchase Act (NWSP, September 30, 2017) — This paper brings together available evidence from sex workers on the impact of the law. Contents include: Structural violence against sex workers: increasing stigma, exclusion and discrimination, interpersonal violence against sex workers, sex workers’ right to health impeded, detrimental effects of a policy export, and policy recommendations.

Sex Workers’ Critique of Swedish Prostitution Policy (Petra Östergren, 2003) — “When it comes to studying, developing and evaluating policy, it is absolutely essential to begin with the needs of the target group as they express them. This applies to sex workers as well. Policies or laws on prostitution must place sex workers themselves at the center of that process. This stance is not a mask for being ‘pro-prostitution’. It is about protecting the rights of sex workers.”

Policy Brief: The Impact of ‘End Demand’ Legislation on Women Sex Workers (NSWP, February 12, 2018) — “A growing number of countries are considering or implementing sex work law reform focusing on ‘ending demand’, which criminalises the purchase of sexual services. This Policy Brief outlines the impact of ‘end demand’ legislation on the human rights of female sex workers, through research and testimony from NSWP members in countries where paying for sex is criminalised. This document explores how these laws not only fail to promote gender equality for women who sell sex, but actively prevent the realisation of their human rights.”


More Resources, Guides, Reports

Sex Worker Project at Urban Justice Center (Resource Guides) — “Drawing on the extensive and diverse knowledge of our staff and other impacted communities with lived experience working in the sex trades, we engage in policy advocacy and research to document and address the pressing issues and needs of sex workers. Our groundbreaking research explores the narratives of sex workers and people who have experienced human trafficking. Read our statements, guides, memos, and reports.”

Female homicide rate dropped after Craigslist launched its erotic services platform (ThinkProgress, October 20, 2017) — “Sex workers have long argued that online erotic services platforms make their jobs safer. A new study proves it.”

Craigslist’s erotic services site appears to have reduced female homicide rates by 17 percent (Huffington Post, October 12, 2017) — “In a groundbreaking study, researchers at Baylor and West Virginia universities have found evidence indicating that craigslist’s erotic advertising site may have prompted a 17 percent decrease in female homicides throughout the United States, principally because sex workers were able to use the free advertising service to move into a safer indoor environments and screen clients more carefully.”

Negotiated Safety? Did Reduce Female Homicide Rates (Homicide Research Working Group, April 6, 2022) — “To determine the effect of online clearinghouses on female homicide rates, interest measures in Backpage along with the female homicide rates from 120 single city metropolitan and micropolitan areas over 14 years (2004–2018) were analyzed using multiple regression analyses. The regression analyses show that there is a statistically significant relationship between interest in Backpage and homicide rates for women. We find that Backpage is associated with a decrease in homicide rates for women.”


Old Pros Founder, Kaytlin Bailey on the Decriminalization of Sex Work

I Am A Sex Worker. Here’s Why Calling Me One Matters. (Huffington Post, September 16, 2023) — “Sex workers all over the world want to be able to report crimes committed against us. We want to be able to safely schedule and screen our clients. We want to work together to share information about dangerous clients and to advocate for our safety and health. But we cannot do these things if we, or our clients, are criminalized.”

The Oldest Profession Podcast — A podcast reminding listeners that sex workers have always been part of the story. Each episode focuses on an “old pro” from history, contextualizing that figure in their own time and connecting their story to the ongoing struggle for sex worker rights. Your host, Kaytlin Bailey, is a nationally touring stand up comic, notorious old pro, and sex worker rights advocate. She’s partnered with the whole team at Old Pros to create an accessible and entertaining resource for anyone who wants to learn more about sex workers and our place in history.

Whore’s Eye View — Weaving comedic storytelling and the wisdom of lived experience, Whore’s Eye View is a mad dash through 10,000 years of history from a sex worker’s perspective by Kaytlin Bailey. A one hour live performance, the show is touring nationally and internationally from 2023 – 2025.

Old Pros — Old Pros is a non-profit media organization creating conditions to change the status of sex workers in society. Changing minds is critical for driving the cultural and legislative breakthroughs required to secure human rights and opportunities for sex workers. Media, art and storytelling are powerful levers for shifting beliefs and breaking down taboos. Old Pros produces persuasive content and compelling events. We bring people together and we change people’s minds.