Is It OK to Pay for Sex?

Is It OK to Pay for Sex?


Kaytlin Bailey

Sex Workers Rights Advocate;

Founder & Executive Director of Old Pros and Host of “The Oldest Profession Podcast”



Yasmin Vafa

Human Rights Attorney; Co-Founder and Executive Director at Rights4Girls



John Donvan

Host and Moderator-in-Chief



This week:

  • New episode: What is the best legal framework for protecting sex workers?
  • A look at the public opinion on whether prostitution should be classified as a crime
  • Your Sunday reading list



More than 40 million people worldwide identify as sex workers and 12% of American men have admitted to paying for sex. In recognition of International Sex Worker Rights Day, we wanted to look at which legal frameworks better protect and support them. Every day, they face legally complex systems, along with social stigma and discrimination, that make it challenging to make a living and protect themselves from exploitation.

One way of addressing sex work is the Nordic Model, which penalizes the buyer, not the seller of sex. It’s been passed in multiple countries and one U.S. state. The model seeks to reduce the demand for commercial sex by holding pimps, brothel owners, and clients accountable and treating prostituted or trafficked persons as the victims of a crime, not as criminals. When it was first put into law in Sweden, for example, there was a 50% decrease in street prostitution and a significant decline in the number of men purchasing sex within two years.

Meanwhile, decriminalization of sex work recommends removing all criminal penalties and sanctions for prostitution, including those impacting the buyer and seller. In countries where decriminalization is in place, sex workers feel more confident reporting bad clients and violent crimes to law enforcement, receive access to needed health services, and have better bargaining power to achieve more economic stability.

This week, a sex worker rights advocate and a human rights attorney have a passionate and vigorous debate about these laws, with the common goal of figuring out what’s best for sex workers. Arguing “yes” it is ok to pay for sex, is Kaytlin Bailey, who is the founder and executive director of a nonprofit organization that seeks to change how society views sex workers. Arguing “no” is Yasmin Vafa, who has advocated on the federal and international level for protecting women and other vulnerable populations as the founder and executive director of Rights4Girls. She is also on several national task forces that help educate policymakers on preventing sex trafficking and violence.

Should sex work be criminalized in some form? Is it OK to pay for sex? Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and on our website. As always, let us know what you think.



Is stigma around sex work decreasing in society?


Is It OK to Pay for Sex?


YES: Kaytlin Bailey

“It is okay to pay for sex, but you don’t have to believe that buying sexual services is okay to know that criminalizing people who do leads to bad outcomes. Decriminalizing sex work not only reduces violence and STIs, but it also creates opportunities for sex workers to hold people accountable who try to hurt us… You don’t have to be somebody who would ever buy or sell sexual services to support policies that reduce violence and exploitation. We can, and should, make it easier for people to report crimes committed against them and aggressively prosecute people. We should provide shelter and real resources to people who are fleeing violent relationships and employers. But we will not do any of that by arresting people for paying for sex.”


No: Yasmin Vafa

“Policies that allow for the payment of sex inevitably increase sex trafficking regardless of their intent. There are enough men who are perfectly content to break the law in order to buy sex that the demand already outpaces the supply, meaning that there are already not enough willing participants to provide that sexual service that traffickers and exploiters are currently grooming, coercing, and forcing vulnerable people into the sex trade in order to capitalize off the demand that already exists. If we were to decriminalize sex buying, even more men would enter the market as new clients. Who would be required to meet this enormous increase in demand for paid sex after decriminalization? We know from our work that traffickers always target our most vulnerable communities, including our youth, who are much easier to recruit and control. We measure success by reducing the overall number of people involved in the industry. One of the primary methods of prevention is to curb the demand for commercial sex.”




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