[Melissa Gira] Grant wants to go back to an older politics. The problem with humanitarianism isn’t just that it provides a vehicle for displaced imperial ventures, or that it can go badly wrong. It’s that it misses the work in sex work. The feminists of the 1970s did not. That decade saw the mobilisation of the English Collective of Prostitutes, protests against police brutality by French sex workers in Lyon, and the transition, Grant argues, from the ‘state of being’ of prostitution to the ‘form of labour’ that is sex work (a transition captured by the activist Carol Leigh, who coined the term ‘sex work’ in 1978). The same years saw a feminist alliance of sex workers and the Wages for Housework movement. ‘Hookers’ and ‘housewives’ had, they argued, a lot in common: we expect the things they provide to be offered freely, through nurture, affection and love. ‘A housewife,’ Grant writes, ‘maintains her legitimacy by not seeking a wage, and a hooker breaks with convention by demanding one.’ Intimacy, care, sex: none of these, we think, should be bought and sold, and demanding compensation and remuneration for women’s work remains subversive. But the most dirty, intimate work is done by those we pay, and it is done by women. Women make up the majority of the low-wage or unpaid workforce who do the unglamorous jobs that keep society running. Sex work is on this spectrum of physical, often sexualised, labour.

Katrina Forrester, “Blame It on the Management”