Maine Passes a Bill to “Partially Decriminalize” Sex Work

Jun 30, 2023

On Monday, Gov. Janet Mills of Maine signed a bill into law to end demand for sex work by criminalizing clients. Supporters of the law claim it is meant to “partially decriminalize” sex work by shifting criminal penalties onto those buying sexual services. This may sound like a win, but everywhere these policies have been implemented-violence against SWers goes up.

When SWers and advocates asked repeatedly for full decriminalization, we very much meant full decriminalization.

This type of law is known as The Nordic Model, The Entrapment Model, The Equality Model, The End Demand Model, The Feminist Model and now the Partial Decrim Model. It goes by many names but all of them are trying to eradicate SW, and all of them lead to bad outcomes.

Criminalizing one end of SW creates a dangerous dynamic between seller and buyer. If clients are the only ones facing criminalization, they can use that as leverage to negotiate price, condom use, screening process, where to meet, etc. When a client refuses screening under the Nordic Model, SWers can’t tell the difference between a reasonable, but nervous, client trying to avoid arrest and a downright dangerous person. Plus this disruption often pushed SWers to do more for less or take more risks to pay their bills. All of this leads to more violence against SWers.

Plus, this model claiming to “partially decriminalize” sex work keeps law enforcement involved because the only way to catch clients is to surveille SWers. In other countries police often use this information to have SWers evicted, have their children taken away or simply frighten off the clients SWer’s depend on for our livelihood.

Anything other than the full decriminalization of SW falls short and ultimately fails SWers.