The Libertarian presidential candidate, Jo Jorgensen, is for capitalism and sex.
“Prostitution is basically capitalism and sex, which of those two are you against? I’m for both,” Jorgensen says in her pro-sex work campaign slogan.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that sex work is on her list of policy issues because libertarians stand for deregulation. They support free markets, personal freedom, and as little government intervention as possible, including low social spending and low taxes.
“The Libertarian Party supports the decriminalization of prostitution. We assert the right of consenting adults to provide sexual services to clients for compensation, and the right of clients to purchase sexual services from consenting sex workers,” the Libertarian platform says.
While the Libertarian platform explicitly includes decriminalizing sex work, the Democratic platform broadly acknowledges the disproportionate violence targetting trans and racialized sex workers without endorsing decriminalization, and the Republican platform doesn’t mention sex work at all.
Jorgensen, who is the first female Libertarian nominee, recently tweeted out her support for legalizing sex work, saying, “Sex workers deserve legal protections while on the job and while it remains illegal it results in being taken advantage of by their clients and also law enforcement.”
It’s unclear if Jorgensen differentiates between legalization and decriminalization. Jorgensen’s campaign did not respond to multiple VICE News requests for an interview.
But there’s an important distinction: Legalization regulates sex work by setting boundaries for where, when, and how people can pursue it. Decriminalization goes further, by eliminating laws that directly hamper or intervene in sex work.
For there to be legalization, we first need decriminalization—otherwise prejudices like systemic racism, homophobia, and transphobia will influence how the industry is regulated and policed, said Zola Bruce, communications director with Sex Workers Project Urban Justice Center.
“Decriminalization of sex work is a human right,” they said.
Bruce said they and their organization won’t endorse any presidential candidate or political party, but U.S. elections and party platforms need to start centring policies and approaches geared towards protecting sex workers. A culture of sex-shaming in the U.S. has made that difficult to do. “Sex work is about consent,” Bruce said, whereas right now the secrecy and stigma associated with sex are “contributing to rape culture in the U.S.”
Politicians need to start speaking openly about the merits of sex work and needs of sex workers, Bruce said, adding that celebrities Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, and Kehlani have already started pushing back against sex work misconceptions.
“There are political agendas right now gearing away from sex positivity,” Bruce said. For example, candidates get support by pushing for anti-trafficking policies, even though conflating sex work with human trafficking is harmful for sex workers and trafficking victims, and sex workers are on the frontlines of supporting trafficking survivors, they said.
Many people, including immigrants, turn to consensual sex work as a viable way to either earn or supplement their income, Bruce said. “Everyone deserves a job that allows them to take care of their basic needs and family.”
COVID-19 has exposed how few supports there are for marginalized groups, including sex workers who haven’t been eligible for emergency relief aid, Bruce said. “Right now, the U.S. is not supportive,” Bruce said. “There needs to be free healthcare—for physical and mental health— and other social services...We deserve to feel empowered.”
Sex work views aside, Jorgensen has made some questionable endorsements. She’s come out against mandatory mask policies, saying private businesses should be able to determine their own approaches to masks and physically distancing. In the U.S., measures geared towards avoiding further contagion have been problematically politicized, with several groups conflating mandatory mask measures with a loss of personal liberty.
Jorgensen apparently also has plans to end all war.
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