#MacroSW Chat 4/25/2019: The Fine Line Between Willing and Coerced Sex Work

Chat transcript

It was the late 1970s when The Police released the song Roxanne. Sting’s catchy and wailing hook, “Rooooxxxannneee….you don’t have to turn on the red light,” pleads in lovesick lyrics that he didn’t want to share Roxanne with another boy.  This song is a glossed over and somewhat romanticized version of prostitution which is often called the oldest profession in the world. Media and music’s depictions about prostitution and sex work have ranged from dark and sinister to glamorous. And there is a fine line between willing and coerced sex work and people’s beliefs vary greatly about sex work and its place in society.

Join us on Thursday, April 25 at 9 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. Pacific) for the #MacroSW chat, The Fine Line Between Willing and Coerced Sex Work, to discuss the difference between willing sex work and human trafficking, tech’s role in sex work, and the social worker’s role in supporting sex workers and fighting against human trafficking.  This is the first chat in a series of chats about sex work. Save these dates. 

May 16- Sex Workers and Stigma, Suicide, & Sexual Violence

June 13- Impact of the Fosta-Sesta Legislation on Sex Work

There are many nuanced issues around willing sex work which is often conflated with the horrors of human trafficking and without clear boundaries.  There is a wide continuum from those (primarily women) who voluntarily enter prostitution and create wealth to coerced sex work and human trafficking.  There is heated moral, legal, and social justice debate about a person’s agency in sex work. And the social worker’s role can be confusing as to how to help people stay in sex work safely or the best ways to get people out.

There are those who believe all sex work is detrimental because of embedded gender oppression in our society and the slippery slope of people who are seemingly voluntarily doing sex work but do so because they are desperate to escape poverty and abuse. They ultimately can be manipulated, trafficked, and coerced into sex work. Poverty, past trauma, sexual orientation, gender, and race play key roles in every facet sex work. Social workers need to better understand all these fine distinctions to better direct our services.

Questions we will explore:

  1. What is the difference between voluntary sex work and human trafficking?
  2. Share your thoughts about technology’s positive and negative role in sex work?
  3. What can social workers do to support safe sex work and fight against human trafficking?


A Heated Debate: Theoretical Perspectives of Sexual Exploitation and Sex Work

Is Prostitution Just Another Job?

Urban Justice Sex Workers Project @UJCSexWorkers

Urban Justice Center Human Rights Reports

15 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking

Urban Institute Study 2007

Sex Workers Outreach Project USA

Roxanne by The Police
Listen to this week’s podcast


  1. How do we watch this? Is this in person or streamed? Will this be live streamed, or prerecorded and posted? Also, will there be time for input/questions? Thank you! I am looking forward to this discussion.

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