In 1975, more than one hundred prostitutes occupied a church in Lyon, France, to protest against police repression, issuing statements that they would stay until prison sentences against their members were lifted. The movement for what was then called prostitute’s rights may have been born from demands for sexual freedom, but its own demands were for freedom from police violence.
A cursoring glance at the sex work debate will swiftly reveal that the bulk of those clamouring for its criminalisation do not work within the industry. It is perhaps the near-universality of screwing that means many outside sex work feel they have a right to dictate how those within should be treated—socially, politically and legally. Melissa Gira Grant’s recent novel, Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work, seeks to interrupt a conversation about prostitution that for too long has given primacy those who have never experienced it.