Red Cross International Youth Meeting 2019

From June 17th-23rd, I had the privilege of representing the Australian Red Cross’ REDxYouth network alongside Zahra, at the Red Cross’s 4th International Youth Meeting, an event that happens every 10 years to help shape the future of the movement. It was such a wonderful experience!

Zahra and I representing REDxYouth

Set in the birthplace of the Red Cross movement, Solferino Italy, we networked with hundreds of young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders from around the world, to share our ideas and experiences s changemakers in our respective countries.

Some of the young people we worked with!

We participated in a series of workshops focusing on major humanitarian challenges such as climate change, as well as some of the world’s most pressing and protracted crises. We contribute to the development of IFRC’s new Strategy 2030 that will guide the organisation’s work for the coming decade.

The Pacific Youth Network with the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross

The week culminated on 22 June with the annual “Fiaccolata” – a candle-lit march involving thousands of volunteers between Solferino and Castiglione delle Stiviere. Solferino is the town where in 1859, Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, witnessed a bloody battle between French and Sardinian armies. Dunant organised local people to treat the soldiers’ wounds and to feed and comfort them. These actions led to the creation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The Fiaccolata

Launching the Humanitarian Changemakers Network


And so, I’m excited to announce that I have created such a platform that I’ll be launching next month: The Humanitarian Changemakers Network.

The Humanitarian Changemakers Network provides an answer to something I’m frequently asked about across social media; “I want to make a difference in the world, but don’t know how.”

The humanitarian changemakers network is a network of changemakers, for changemakers, with a mission to increase the impact that humanitarian changemakers can make, by providing them with resources and a supportive community to help live consciously, engage in advocacy, get active and campaign for change, and be on the frontline of humanitarian initiatives and projects.

It is a platform of resources and tools covering things like: the sociology of social change, identifying different levels and types of social change within society, and how to achieve them.

This diagram outlines the four main types of social change, which forms the basis for the Humanitarian Changemakers Network:

The resources and tools on the platform that seek to help young people change the world are categorised according to the type of social change they seek to achieve:

These are, conscious living and inspiring collective action, engaging in advocacy, getting active and campaigning for change, and humanitarian community and international development projects and initiatives.

These are things I believe any changemaker should develop an understanding of, no matter what their specific interests are or what their level of experience is.

The platform will officially launch of the 1st March, and I can’t wait to continue to release more tools and resources to help people like you change the world. If you’re passionate about changing the world, give the Humanitarian Changemakers Network a follow on Instagram, and check out the website! When you sign up and join the humanitarian changemakers network (for FREE) you’ll receive a copy of our ebook, the Humanitarian’s handbook.



How I started Humanitarian Freelancing

Towards the end of 2018, before completing my undergraduate study, I took the leap and started my own business freelancing across the humanitarian sector…

I’ve received several questions about how I got started freelancing, and how others can begin a career working for themselves in their dream field. I recently answered these questions in a YouTube video, which I thought I’d also share here…

(Skip ahead in the video to 3:25)

Changing the World with WORDS

It sounds incredibly cliche, but words really do have the power to change the world. As activists, we sign so many petitions and send so many emails to MPs, but we seldom stop and think about the impact they have, or moreover, the power of a handwritten letter.

This month marked the beginning of Write For Rights, an annual Amnesty International campaign that is currently in its 16th year. Amnesty activists around the world have achieved a lot in the last 15 years through Write for Rights, some of which you can read about here. The idea behind Write for Rights is pretty simple… Amnesty International identifies brave people around the world who are being punished for defending human rights, and people write letters for them; one letter that goes to the authorities that are violating their rights, and another is a solidarity letter that lets the people know that the Amnesty activists around the world are fighting for them.

How Write For Rights Works


As many of you my also know, I have been involved with Oxfam’s What She Makes campaign, which calls on big Australian brands to take the crucial next step in creating a fairer fashion industry- committing to paying the women who make our clothes a living wage. In exciting news, retail leader Kmart is predicted to be the first of all the brands the campaign targets, to publicly commit to paying a living wage. I was asked by Oxfam campaigners to lead a group of QLDers to write letters to Kmart’s CEO, pushing him to show leadership and take action for living wages.

Working with both Oxfam and amnesty volunteers, we have been writing heaps of letters to defend human rights and tackle poverty together. The best thing about letter writing is that its a very personal, non-confrontational form of activism, making it great for anyone who is keen to get involved in activism but not really sure how. It doesn’t take much organising to gather a group of friends, get some pens, paper, envelopes, and stamps, and write letters to people who have the power to make big decisions. If you’re keen to get active and take action to defend human rights or tackle poverty, why not start with letter writing!

Tiyana letter writing for Amnesty and Oxfam

What can you do to work towards #ZeroHunger

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), after a period of decline, world hunger is on the rise again. Zero hunger means working together to ensure everyone, everywhere, has access to the safe, healthy and nutritious food they need. To achieve it, we must adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, work with others, share our knowledge and be willing to help change the world – for the better.

Whether you’re a business, farmer, government representative or simply someone that’s willing to make a change, you can take action for #ZeroHunger!

To celebrate World Food Day and my commitment as an individual to the Sustainable Development Goals and ending world hunger by 2030, I made a vlog on my YouTube channel talking about simple actions we can take as individuals to help you make #ZeroHunger way of life, to help re-connect to food and what it stands for.

Now you’re probably thinking that your actions might not have the power to end world hunger… but think about how the food you eat also contributes to other sustainable development goals. Food security, like most other issues is a multifaceted issue that has human and environmental dimensions. It’s not just about making sure everyone in the world gets fed, but making sure the food we eat is produced and used sustainably, and the farmers who grow our food aren’t exploited.

As many of you who have been following me on social media would know, back in June/July I made the choice to transition to a minimal-zero waste lifestyle to reduce my negative impact on the planet. As a wannabe zero-waster, part of this lifestyle change meant making a very conscious effort to reduce my food waste. This is one of the most powerful things we can do in the developing world, to progress SDG 2.

Be informed about #ZeroHunger

One of the things the FAO recommends individuals do is take time to read about #ZeroHunger, the challenges we face in getting there and what governments, companies, farmers and others need to do. I also believe that education leads to action, so I compiled a list of my favourite resources for people to learn more about food security.

Book recommendations:

“Stuffed and Starved” by Raj Patel

“The ethics of what we eat” by Peter Singer

“Full Planet Empty Plates” by Lester R. Brown

Documentary recommendations:

Food Inc. (2008), a documentary which examines how mammoth corporations have taken over all aspects of the food chain in the United States, from the farms where our food is grown to the chain restaurants and supermarkets where it’s sold.

Global Waste: The Scandal of Food Waste (2011). Food waste is a global problem of increasing magnitude. This documentary outlines the severity of the issue, and shows various solutions implemented by people around the world

Food Chains (2014), is a film about agricultural labour in the US after a hunger strike is launched at the headquarters of Publix supermarkets to protest poor wages and working conditions.

Food Choices (2016), explores the impact that food choice has on people’s health, the health of our planet and on the lives of other species sharing our world.

Earth 2 Us, my favourite podcast by youtuber Hannah McNeely and her friend Evan Oliver is not only entertaining, but they have a tonne of episodes about zero-waste and veganism. I’d totally recommend their podcast to anyone!

And speaking of veganism… there is no doubt that animal agriculture is one of the most water, energy, and land intensive industries in the world. With documentaries like Cowspiracy bringing this to the mainstream, UN agencies including the FAO are recommending limiting animal products and opting for a more plant-based diet…

I’ve been vegan for 5 years, for ethical, environmental, and health reasons…. And I would recommend it to anyone who is in a position to choose what you eat or where your next meal comes from.

Wasting less, eating better and adopting a sustainable lifestyle are key to building a world free of hunger. According to the FAO, the choices we make today, as individuals, are vital for a secure future of food…

My Body My Rights

In a matter of weeks, QLD MPs will vote on new laws that will determine the access women have to healthcare services like abortion. In the last few months, I have been very involved in campaigning efforts to decriminalise abortion here in QLD… and in the last 2 weeks, I have undertaken 2 projects related to decriminalising abortion that I thought I’d share with you guys.

The first of these was my first freelance job for an Australian organisation- Fair Agenda. Fair Agenda are campaigning to decriminalise abortion in QLD, and I managed to score a freelancing gig editing campaign materials for their abortion campaign- and I was super excited because this was my first paid video editing job! This is the video I made:

The second of these was an episode of the Amnesty Activist Connect podcast that I started, which was all about Amnesty’s My Body My Rights campaign, and about the abortion laws in QLD/Australia. It included interviews with Ellie and Hope from the Women’s Abortion Rights Campaign Brisbane. Here’s a little excerpt of what I talk about in the episode:

I’m a 22 year old woman, and from my own experience, particularly as an adult entertainer, I think that the policing of female sexuality and our bodies is something I’ve become increasingly aware of over the years, and I study sociology and philosophy at university, so I have a huge interest in how expressing our sexuality and making decisions about our bodies policed, and how this is maintained through ideologies and social norms…. a majority these social norms are controlled by our governments, our communities, even our families. As women, when we challenge those norms, we are made to feel guilty or embarrassed. Some of us are stigmatised for challenging these norms, and in some parts of the world, women are jailed. And it’s because of this, that we keep silent.

You can listen to the full episode on the Activist Connect Soundcloud or on youtube:

Hopefully that in a few weeks, women across QLD will be able to enjoy their right to healthcare services like abortion!


As many of you know, I’ve been involved with Amnesty International QLD/NNSW since the beginning of 2018, as an intern/office volunteer and the media & communications team leader…

As the media and communications team leader, I was trying to develop a media strategy for the second half of the year, and I decided I wanted my team to branch out into the wider community, conduct more interviews, and create more original content… but then I saw a gap, that I though needed filling. While we could share this content on our regional social media platforms, I wanted to be able to reach a broader audience (because they people we interview are super inspiring and can teach activists a lot of tips/tricks,) and so I came up with the idea of a podcast for Amnesty International Australia activists.

With the help of one of my team members, Izzy, we sat down and started planning the podcast. We called it “Activist Connect” and the aim of the podcast is to engage, educate, entertain, and connect Amnesty Activists across the country.

For our first episode, we sat down with Shankar, Amnesty’s lead refugee campaigner to hear about his own experience as a refugee coming to Australia, and all about Amnesty’s #MyNewNeighbour campaign, calling for a fairer community sponsorship program for those seeking protection in Australia. We also talk about tips and tricks for community campaigning, and heard from @amnestymaroochydoreabout how they are bringing the My New Neighbour campaign to their community.

The podcast is currently available on and YouTube.

Fighting Poverty in the Fashion Industry with Oxfam

The Oxfam Change Initiative brings together youth leaders and supports them over a 6 month training program in campaign strategy and community organising. As a 2018 Change Initiative Youth Leader, I worked on Oxfam’s What She Makes campaign, calling on big brands to pay the women who make our clothes a living wage, so they can break the cycle of poverty.

I started the Oxfam Change Initiative back in April with a group of amazing girls passionate about changing the world. We first met at our induction and instantly got along well, and after our induction we met at the Brisbane Oxfam office fortnightly for our workshops. The workshops covered: Campaign Strategy, Tactics and Community Organising, Campaign Project Management, Events and Actions, Values, Framing and Messaging, Leadership and Team-Building, Conversations for Change, and Digital Campaigning. We also had an overnight retreat where we learnt more important skills, heard from the What She Makes campaign lead, contributed to the next stage of the campaign, and worked on the action plans for the event or activity we were each organising for the campaign.

The event I organised as part of the campaign was a workshop that aimed to 1. teach people about the issue, 2. encourage some discussion, 3. encourage them to reflect and express their views, 4. provide practical help in learning more/taking action. The workshop was held at a cafe boardroom, with brunch included. We called the event Breakfast of Changemakers

You can see how the event went in my vlog:

After the event, I put together a booklet that summarised everything we discussed, (including what we learnt from the wonderful guest speaker,) provided some practical tips and tricks on how to have meaningful conversations with family and friends to help raise awareness about the issue, and how to remain engaged in the campaign. You can check out the booklet here.

We all buy clothes, so we should all use our power as customers to tell companies we care about what she makes, and ask companies to pay the women who make our clothes a living wage. You can learn more about Oxfam’s What She Makes campaign at

Are you morally obligated to help the world’s poor?

One of the most influential books I have read about poverty, possibly because I read it at a relatively young age, was The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty by one of my favourite philosophers, Peter Singer. Singer wrote The Life You Can Save (first published in 2009) to address our current response to the issue of world poverty, demonstrating that we are not doing enough as individuals, which is ethically indefensible. I have always been interested in issues relating to poverty, and from a young age have wondered what my obligations towards those living in poverty are as a privileged individual living in Australia.


Singer, a renowned utilitarian, presents his argument in the first chapters of the book for why we are in fact morally obligated to help the worlds poor. He uses the example of a child drowning in a pond, and asserts that if you saw a child drowning in a lake and you were in a position to save them, you should do so. According to Singer, if you are in a position to save a life without sacrificing something equally as important, you are morally obligated to do so, and a child halfway across the world is no different (to a child dying in front of you), just because you can’t see them. Here is a breakdown of Singer’s argument:

Premise 1: It is bad that people should suffer from a lack of clean drinkable water, basic healthcare, food security, and shelter.

Premise 2: If you are in a position to prevent something bad from happening without having to sacrifice something equally as important, it is wrong not to do so.

Premise 3: By giving money to humanitarian aid agencies you can prevent the suffering and death of someone from lack of clean drinkable water, basic healthcare, food security, and shelter, without having to sacrifice something equally important.

Conclusion: Therefore if you do not give anything to humanitarian aid agencies you are doing something ethically bad.

This video by PBS Crash Course does a great job of explaining Singer’s argument, and a popular objection to it by Garrett Hardin:


You aren’t well-off enough to give your money to the world’s poor: This is a very common objection to the notion that we are morally obligated to give to the world’s poor: you aren’t rich enough to have heaps of money to donate to the world’s poor. But as Singer so eloquently puts it in his book: if you have the money to buy yourself a bottle of water, a juice or a soda, when you have access to free, clean drinkable water from the tap, then you do have at least some money that you could be giving to the world’s poor.

We should help the struggling people in our own communities before helping others: Yes, it is true that pretty much every developed society still has people in their own communities who are struggling in some way. Something that I really don’t like to do is compare the struggles of people who are in completely different situations, but I feel as though when it comes to this argument we can still constructively compare the two situations and establish which situation should be addressed first without devaluing the struggles of the other. While Singer states in his book that there are 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty (what the UN defines as living on less than $1.25US a day) and these are the people who should be helped first, I prefer to refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Maslow’s hierarchy is a 5 tier pyramid that describes the 5 levels of psychological need for humans, and each level can’t be achieved until the level below has been first. The first tier describes physiological needs such as shelter, food, and water, and the second tier is the need for security and safety, whether it be financial, from natural disasters, the military, etc. By comparing the needs of the world’s poor with those in our own societies and seeing where they fit in Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, we can then establish who ought to be be helped first. Regardless of where people come from, whether it be our own community or a community half way across the world, the people who don’t even have their physiological needs fulfilled are the ones we ought to help first.

Objections to the benefit of humanitarian aid: It is fair to believe that humanitarian aid is not the best way to go about alleviating world poverty, when disadvantaged communities and developing countries should instead focus on building a stable economy through things like trade, and developing more stable governments and social systems. While this is a very important point, this doesn’t devalue the importance of humanitarian aid in the fight to alleviate poverty, since humanitarian aid saves lives. While it is important to build stable economies, governments, and societies, it is equally as important to save lives while this is happening.

It’s Not Fair: Why should you give some of your hard earned money to the world’s poor when there are people far better off than you are who won’t do the same, that isn’t fair? While it may not be fair, morality isn’t about fairness. You are responsible for your own actions, and just because other people aren’t willing to save a life, that doesn’t mean it’s okay for you not to save a life either.

Why should I have to sacrifice things that bring me joy: It can seem unfair that you might have to sacrifice small luxuries that bring you joy and add value to your life, especially when you’ve worked hard to earn them. It might be easy for you to say “I’d rather buy new shoes than give my money to the poor,” but we shouldn’t think of aid as just giving our money away, we should think of humanitarian aid as saving a life. Could you still justify saying “I’d rather buy new shoes than save someone’s life.”


The book itself goes further into giving to the worlds poor than just our moral obligations. Singer also addresses other philosophical considerations, he describes the practical obstacles to giving, and discusses problems associated with giving to certain charities. Singer also offers a plan for readers to figure out how much and how best to give to different charities. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about what we can do as individuals to act now to end world poverty.

In a recent youtube video, I shared my thoughts on the book, how it (amongst other things) influenced my passion for sustainable development, and give a little insight into the things I do as an activist for Campaign for Australian Aid; campaigning for cross-party commitment for Australia to increase its foreign aid budget.

Let’s Talk About SWERF

You may have never heard of term Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminism, or SWERF, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a type of institutionalised sexism that you have in fact been socialised into. Institutionalised sexism is a type of unjustified negative behaviour against women or men as members of a social category, and sex worker exclusionary radical feminism is the type of institutionalised sexism and oppression that women (and men) face in the sex industry. It affects prostitutes, escorts, strippers, sugar babies, webcam models, and porn stars, amongst any other sex related profession.

NOTE: I have used the word sex to describe any intimate or sexual activity that may be performed by a sex worker, not always the act of sex itself. Also, although SWERF is an issue for both male and female sex workers, being a female dominated industry most of the information provided focuses on the issues women in the sex industry face.

What exactly is SWERF?

The term SWERF was coined to match that of trans exclusionary radical feminism, because their ideologies both overlap. They are both feminism subgroups that follow a prescriptive, normative approach to feminism: while trans exclusionary radical feminism is associated with judging women and telling them what to do with their gender, sex worker exclusionary radical feminism is associated with judging women and telling them what to do with their body (generally in exchange for money). Although both men and women work in the sex industry, it is still a female dominated industry, so women are mostly the target of sex worker exclusionary radical feminism.

It’s not really “radical” at all…

The actual term sex worker exclusionary radical feminism often causes a dilemma, since many people who would be considered “SWERFs” aren’t actually radical, but are in fact more conservative in their values and actions towards sex. Although the term contains the word “radical” in its name, sex worker exclusive radical feminism is more reactionary than it is radical. Reactionary positions are ones which intend to revert society to more traditional, conservative values. It is a commonly held view by most feminists (particularly third wave) that women should be free to have an interest and partake in whichever sexual acts they please. SWERFS however, take their own perspective on sexuality one step further by dictating what sexual activity is acceptable or “morally right/good” for others to perform. Nonetheless, I don’t believe getting caught up in SWERF rhetoric will actually do any justice to the issue.

What are the signs of SWERF?

Sex worker exclusionary radical feminism is a type of oppression that can be manifested in several ways. Simple comments made to your friend along the lines of “wow, you look like a prostitute,” is an oppressive statement since in this context the word “prostitute” is given a negative connotation, which in turn devalues those women who choose to work as prostitutes. If you have any preconceived negative beliefs and attitudes towards sex workers, you are probably showing signs of SWERF. Beliefs that sex workers are dirty, they are exploiting themselves, objectifying themselves for money, or they are somehow less deserving of rights than a person working in any other industry, are all types of sex worker exclusionary radical feminism. Everyday instances of SWERF can also encompass bullying and oppression that is known as whorephobia.

How do these “feminists” justify SWERF?

Many people who show signs of SWERF otherwise consider themselves feminists. Most feminists who object to the rights and notion of sex work usually claim one (or both) of two arguments to justify their discrimination towards sex workers. The first of these objections to sex work is based on the belief that sex work is sexual objectification of women, and the second is that it perpetuates sexual violence towards women. Although I will address these issues in more detail below, it is important to note that SWERF doesn’t actually address either of these issues that it claims to stand for. Instead of individuals exercising their right not to sexualise themselves by partaking in sexual activities that they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing, SWERFs take it one step further by telling others that they should feel/do the same, and instead of focusing on the sexual violence that human trafficked people in parts of the world may face, SWERFs neglect this and and instead try to prevent (an often non existent) sexual violence towards sex workers who have freely chosen their profession.

Common Misconceptions About Sex Workers

Before I really delve into the issues associated with SWERF, I would first like to address some of the common misconceptions that people have towards those who work in the sex industry. If you have any preconceived negative ideas about sex workers (don’t worry, that was me once upon a time too,) this might help you get a clearer understanding of what sex work is actually like. Many of these misconceptions are based on outdated moralistic views that no longer apply in contemporary societies, but have somehow managed to persist and be socialised from generation to generation.

Sex workers don’t have a choice?

It’s a common misconception that women or men work in the sex industry because they “don’t have a choice,” they “don’t have any other skills,” or they’re “forced to sell their body,” but for a vast majority of sex workers in the developed world, this certainly isn’t the case. Sex workers work in the sex industry because they want to, for a huge array of reasons, including but certainly not limited to: they enjoy the art of sex, they enjoy the money, or they enjoy the flexibility and lifestyle that comes with being a sex worker. Pretty much any reason that people work any kind of job can apply to sex work. For many sex workers, sex work is a means to an end, so they are only in the industry until they achieve a certain goal, whether it be a financial goal or a personal goal. But for many women and men sex work is a career, that like any type of career involves skill, talent, dedication, and years of experience.

Note: If someone is coerced to work in the sex industry or forced to, this is an issue of human/sex trafficking, which is not the same as being a sex worker.

Sex workers “sell their body” for money?

If you think that sex workers “sell their body” anymore than a man who does labour or construction work sells his body, then your view of labour is clouded by an outdated and oppressive moralistic view of sexuality. Carpenters sell their bodies for labour. Models sell their bodies to be photographed. Lawyers sell their body for their knowledge. If you have a job you are essentially selling your body. What part of your body you are selling shouldn’t matter, whether it’s your brawn, boobs, or brains.

Sex work is “wrong?”

Sex work is a legitimate job in both the legal and moral senses of the word. There’s nothing wrong with providing a service and getting paid for it (that’s what all jobs do) and there’s nothing wrong with having sex (we are all products of sex.) Suddenly when the two things are combined it’s “sad” “disgusting” or “wrong?” What is it about sex work that is apparently so much worse than any other kind of work? (I’ll address the ethics of sex work in more detail below.)

Sex work is dirty?

There is a belief that sex work harms people through the risk of spreading disease, and while STDs are a very valid problem, it isn’t an issue for sex workers since sex work is safe, clean, and regulated.

Sex workers ruin relationships?

Another common misconception is that sex workers ruin relationships/marriages, since many committed or married men get involved with sex workers, often without their partner knowing. According to Lana Jade, a high end Sydney escort in her Daily Mail interview, “men see sex workers for no one particular reason, some are lacking intimacy in their relationships, perhaps their wives don’t want to have sex or don’t have the time, but they still love their wives so to fill the sexual quota they need they choose, a no strings attached paid encounter.” To blame a sex worker for “ruining a relationship” is ridiculous. When a sex worker interacts with a client, whether it be sexually, intimately, or even just emotionally (no one of these is any better or worse than the other,) they are simply doing their job. Their job is to provide a service to the client, regardless of the client’s own situation. That client’s relationship isn’t ruined by the sex worker, that relationship was ruined when they made the conscious decision to go behind their partner’s back and hide something from them, regardless of whether a sex worker was involved or not.

Problems with SWERF

Now that we have addressed some of the most basic and common misconceptions that people have towards sex workers, we can delve into the problems that are associated with sex worker exclusionary radical feminism, and why the discrimination and oppression of sex workers is wrong. In order to move forward from our ways of SWERF and into a future where sex workers are treated with the same rights and respect as all workers, we first need to address a few problems with SWERF:

Sex workers aren’t objectifying/exploiting themselves

Sex worker exclusionary radical feminism is strongly based on the view that sex work should be frowned upon because it objectifies and/or exploits women. While I was doing some research on SWERF, I came across an article on a popular feminist blog refuting the validity of sex work, for the reason below.

“First, there is no such thing as “sex work.” Prostitution and pornography are not “work,” insofar as “work” does not involve exploiting people’s bodily integrity (and any job that does is just as evil). Therefore using the term “sex work” assumes as its premise the validity of the exploitation of women’s bodily integrity.”

This immediately set alarm bells off in my head. Now, as I addressed earlier, sex workers don’t “sell their bodies” anymore than any other worker sells their body. But when it comes to the sexualisation of women’s bodies, I think there are a few important distinctions that needs to be made.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the sexualisation of a woman. Nothing. Problems with the sexualisation of women arise when the healthy sexuality of a woman is turned into objectification or exploitative sexualisation. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) there are four factors that set objectification or exploitative sexualisation apart from healthy sexuality.

1. A person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behaviour, to the exclusion of other characteristics;

Often when women are sexualised, they are seen as less intelligent, but this isn’t actually the case. There is no correlation between how much a woman chooses to sexualise herself and how intelligent (or any other characteristic) she is, this is an outdated belief that we as a society need to abolish. When someone else imposes the value of a woman based solely upon the degree to which she sexualises herself, this becomes exploitative (not by the woman herself, but those who are imposing this value onto her.)

2. A person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;

The sexualisation of a woman becomes unhealthy and objectifying when we begin to equate physical attractiveness to notions like being sexy. This is a problem for two reasons, firstly, it suggests that a woman’s appearance is the only thing her sexiness should be based upon, rather than her intelligence, or other characteristics of her personality. Secondly, it suggests that women must have certain physical traits in order to be considered attractive and sexy. In most cases, sex workers rely on good communication skills, intelligence, and other personality traits to be successful with their clients, and sex workers are all incredibly diverse in both appearance and personality, so sex work avoids being exploitative in this sense.

3. A person is made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making;

This is, at its core, sexual objectification. Sexual objectification in any situation is never okay, and it is a misconception that sex workers objectify themselves, but we now know this isn’t true. Sex workers are not forced into anything, and they have complete autonomy over decision making, activities, and situations that affect them.

4. Sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

There is a fundamental difference between an autonomous woman who chooses to sexualise herself (like a sex worker) which is okay, and the nonconsensual sexualising, objectifying or exploiting (of women collectively,) which is not okay.

So, provided that sex work is practiced in a way which avoids these factors (which most sex work does,) one cannot argue that sex work is in any way objectifying or exploitative of women.

Why society doesn’t like sex work

On a micro scale, it is commonly viewed that many women dislike sex workers because they see them as a direct competition, particularly against their own partners and husbands. Many women also feel threatened by the fact that someone else is making a profit selling something that they often give away for free. Men dislike sex workers because they don’t like the thought of paying for something that they wish they could achieve naturally.

But on a macro scale, why do we as a society dislike sex work? From a sociological perspective, it is clear to see that sex work poses a threat to the values that our society was once built upon. Sex work predominantly challenges our views and values toward sex, and the institution of family.

Sex: Sex work challenges the traditional views of the role that sex should play in our lives. The views that sex should be between a man and a woman, it should be between people who love one another, with the ultimate goal of a sexual relationship to raise children to carry society forward.

Family: Our society was built upon a strong notion of family, and more specifically, the nuclear family. Father’s had a duty to provide for their family, and mothers had the role of creating and raising children in a stable family environment.

Today, many people practice sex for reasons other than creating a family and raising children. We partake in sex because it is enjoyable, it’s a part of human nature to have sexual desires and there is nothing inherently wrong with pursuing pleasure. When sex work becomes widely accepted, it means that as a society we are moving beyond and leaving behind some of these traditional views and values. A man partaking in paid sexual services is expending effort outside the expectation of being a husband and father, since he is not spending all of his time and resources creating, providing for, and raising his own children. A woman turning to sex work is is expanding beyond her role of being a wife and mother, and as a sex worker she becomes one less young woman in the marriage pool for men. The acceptance of sex work certainly doesn’t mean that these things aren’t valued anymore, but it means that they aren’t as important as they once were.

Furthermore, accepting promiscuity within society defeats many sexist assumptions towards women that we may still have in our society. A woman who can have an emotionally healthy relationship with multiple sexual partners means she can make choices for herself, which goes against women being the sexual property of or belonging to a single man. It suggests that like men who have strong, animalistic sexual desires, women have strong sexual instincts too. Promiscuity and the notion of “slut shaming” has often been an easy tool for members of society to silence women, but that statement “what a slut!” doesn’t actually have any moral groundings to be considered an insult.

Sex work is not immoral

Provided that sex work remains non exploitative and non coercive as discussed above, there are no logical reasons to support the claim that sex work is immoral. The only way sex work can be considered immoral is if the notions of “sex” and/or “work” are considered to be morally wrong… and most people would agree they aren’t. Any views that sex work is immoral probably arise from outdated moralistic views of sex and sexuality, that originate from our once theocratic past.

Even though secular views on sex are now commonly accepted, let’s dispel a few misconceived arguments as to why sex (and related activities,) in the context of sex work might still be considered wrong:

Sex should be between two people who love one another: Let’s assume that having sex with someone that you are not committed to is wrong, at most what follows from this is that sex with multiple partners is immoral, and this becomes an argument against sex, not sex work itself. Let’s face it, unless you’re strictly religious, there is no reason you should have to prescribe to the belief that having multiple sexual partners is wrong.

Sex work harms relationships/marriages: As discussed earlier, sex work doesn’t harm relationships. People being deceitful to their partners is what harms a relationship, not the actual sex; sex is just a byproduct of lying and deceiving.

Sex work encourages using sex as means to fill an emotional void: This belief is based on an unjustified belief that it isn’t possible to have multiple sex partners and be emotionally healthy. Although this claim isn’t actually based upon any philosophical/psychological research, if we do in fact assume it to be true, there isn’t any reason for us to moralise such behaviour. There is no reason on which to base the belief that using sex to fill an emotional void is inherently any less moral than taking up knitting to fill an emotional void.

Overindulgence in sex is wrong: There are no valid arguments to support the claim that an overindulgence in sex is wrong. Sex isn’t in short supply, so an overconsumption of sex can’t be considered wrong for fear that a shortage might ensue. Any other claim that overindulging in sex is wrong must be based on the premise that sex should be between two committed people, it shouldn’t be used to fill an emotional void, or that the act of sex is sacred, which we now know aren’t morally sound claims.

Moving forward into a world without SWERF

In order for sex work to be considered a valid profession, we need to understand why it is so important:

Need: Intimacy and sexual desire is a part of human nature. We are biologically designed to find sex pleasurable, and there is nothing inherently wrong with pursuing things that bring us pleasure.

Partake: Many of us partake in the services of sex workers, even if it is as simple as watching porn. Sex work offers a release for people who may not have any other means of fulfilling their need for intimacy and sexual activity, with people who are willing to participate and be a part of it.

Demand: As a subsequent result of our need for intimacy and sexual activities, and the fact that many people rely on the work of sex workers to partake in such activities, the demand for the services of sex workers is very high.

In summary, sex workers assist in fulfilling a basic human need that is detrimental for many members of society. We as both individuals and a collective society need to move forward past these negative, preconceived ideas we may have about sex workers, and realise that the discrimination and oppression of sex workers is not only unjustified, but morally indefensible. Sex worker’s rights are human rights.