Sex for money paves your streets, too, you know.

04Nov08

There are two things that are symbolic of America (with apologies to my foreign friends): voting and paying taxes. On this election day, of course I am going to encourage everyone to vote. As San Franciscoians decide the fate of the decriminalization bill Prop K, there’s a myth that should be addressed. In the dialogue about Prop K, legalization, decriminalizaton, whateverization, many skeptics (cynical libertarians?) offer wryly that decriminalization or legalization will make it so that sex work can be taxed.

I have a surprise for these folk. Sex workers already pay taxes. Which is ironic, since taxes support a legal system that abuses them. The IRS does not care if your job is legal and documented or not. If it is a job, you pay taxes. Sex workers pay taxes for all kinds of reasons. Having a documented job improves your credit score. Paying into social security allows you to file for benefits later. Not paying taxes is often a much more serious offense than sex work. Paying taxes allows sex workers to deposit their earnings in bank accounts, buy property, pay off debt, and so forth, without the very real fear that the IRS will flag them for tax evasion. What decriminalization does is help sex workers who may be afraid of filing for fear of legal recourse.

In the eyes of the IRS, a sex worker who doesn’t pay taxes is in the same boat as a server who isn’t on the books at a restaurant, or a construction worker who isn’t documented. Some types of sex work are more likely to be legal (in the IRS sense) than others, such as porn and dancing. Then again, it’s a lot easier for someone to walk into a CPA’s office, plunk down a stack of cash, and say they’re a porn performer or a dancer than an escort or an erotic massage worker. Which is where self-education comes in.

I have no data on what ratio of sex workers pay taxes. I know that many do. I do. I learned how from other sex worker friends.  But remember this: next time you drive on a road, walk on a sidewalk, drop your kids off at a public school, draw on your disability or social security, call your representative, think about your local sex worker, who is paying taxes just like you. Sex work helped pay for that road, sidewalk, school, benefits, salary.

And, unfortunately, sex work also helps pay for a system that persecutes it. It pays for the salaries of police who arrest sex workers, the judges who rule on their cases, the prisons that house them. Sex workers are sometimes citizens, and when they aren’t, they’re still members of society just trying to make it. Just like you.

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One Response to “Sex for money paves your streets, too, you know.”


  1. 1 Being Amber Rhea » Blog Archive » links for 2008-11-08

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