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“Women living on the street” 

This is a phrase often used by Street Safe as a catch-all to include women who live significantly below the federal poverty line and, as a result, are homeless or precariously housed and may sell sex on the street occasionally or daily. Oftentimes, the women also struggle with addiction and mental health issues and much more likely to be victims of domestic violence.

What to call a person selling sex

A prostitute is defined as someone who exchanges sexual favors for money, drugs, or other desirable commodities. However, Street Safe rarely uses this term. The preferred phrase on the street is “doing dates,” which is the only term we use when talking with the women we serve. When we are in a setting, usually professional, where we need to be more clear, we say a “person who sells sex.” It’s factually accurate and we’ve the least amount of pushback on that phrase from other agencies and advocates.

 

What to call the person buying sex

We don’t really care what term is used. On the street, they they call the customer a “date,” so we often use that. When we need to be more professional, we say a “person who buys sex.” We don’t really like the term “trick,” but if it’s being used by a woman who does dates, she can use whatever term she wants

 

What to call businesses that rely on sex acts or stimulation

At the moment our organization is using the term “sex trade” because we think is the most technically accurate and least prone to misunderstanding. But that will likely change.

A "sex trade” is when a customer gives money (or something else of value) to a person who provides sexual stimulation or a sex act. “Sex stimulation” includes erotic displays where there is no physical interaction with the customer. “Sex act” includes physical interaction with the customer up to and including sexual intercourse.

A NOTE ON GENDER

There are, of course, men who sell sex, however, since the vast majority of those working in sex commerce are female, we use the terms "woman," "women," "she," and "her" when providing statistical information. If a researcher specifically looked at men who sell sex, we would make sure to include that.

Industries involved
in the sex trade

  • Strip clubs

  • Live sex shows

  • Massage parlors 

  • Pornography

  • Escort services

  • Prostitution

    • Truck stops

    • Casinos

    • Brothel

    • Online – in-call or out-call

    • Street​

NOTE: Not all massage parlors are involved in sex commerce, however, some are, which is why the phrase “happy ending” — which is when a full-body rubdown ends with a sex act — has made it into everyday vocabulary