Sex work: for better or worse
Do sex workers enjoy what they do? Could sex work help the Kenyan tax base?
Taxes is the first thing that comes to my mind every time I hear ‘sex work’. I believe sex work is an age-old profession that sees a lot of money changing hands and could be a great way to broaden Kenya’s tax base.
And with the taxes, we could ensure safer working conditions for sex workers, as is the case in other parts of the world.
But I have a caveat here: I am working under the assumption that every sex worker is of legal age and has consciously chosen this profession.
The second thing that comes to mind: do sex workers genuinely enjoy their craft? It is one thing to have sex with someone you are attracted to or in love with. But is it another thing to have sex and give your body to a stranger for a profit? Does it matter? I don’t know.
A while back, I had the opportunity to meet and chat with two sex workers. I will call them John and Sarah.
Related: How much would you charge for sex?
John is a male sex worker. He didn’t finish high school. His uncle, who took care of him, kicked him out of his home when he discovered that his nephew was gay. After that, John was on his own; fending for himself. He dated a few men who took advantage of him. He then opted for independence, and to make money through sex work.
A few months later, he discovered he was HIV-positive. He didn’t let this drag him down, and now volunteers for five different organisations; he distributes condoms and lubricants to sex workers five days a week.
I recall asking him if he would ever want to leave the business. He hesitated and responded, ‘ni ngumu’. It’s difficult. Then I rephrased my question, ‘if money wasn’t the issue, would you leave the business?’ John smiled; he said he enjoys his work.
Just like John, Sarah says she likes her job. Sarah has a teenage son. She had a chat with him when he was 13 and told him what she does. Her son was saddened by it, but also told his mother he would support whatever decision she made about her work life.
I am not sure how I feel about that. Sarah does earn a pretty penny. But I still stop and wonder if sex work takes a toll on a person.
I asked Sarah the same question I asked John, ‘if money wasn’t the issue, would you leave the business?’
She said she wouldn’t mind leaving; but it’s a guarantee of cash and less of a hassle than hustling.
I realised that sex work provides them with a comfort zone they both didn’t want to leave. Which is fine. Because many of us work to earn money and provide for our families, not because our job is necessarily our passion.
But when I meet sex workers who need to get high to be able to perform sexually, it concerns me; because drugs or alcohol are an escape. If you have to escape mentally and emotionally to perform in any craft, I don’t think it’s a profession to be in.