Club Feature: About Sex Work AU works to destigmatize the industry through education

New club on campus informs AU students on the history and proper terminology of sex work

Club Feature: About Sex Work AU works to destigmatize the industry through education

About Sex Work AU is a new campus organization bringing awareness to students about the sex worker community in the D.C. area. 

The organization began as a group project in Adjunct Instructor Aimee Richardson’s HLTH-323 Issues in Women’s Health class. 

“We look at health and we take health for granted,” Richardson said. “Being in the AU community, we live in this bubble. Our expectation is that health is eating right and exercising and for some people, it's really just getting general care.”

In the class, students create community-based learning projects centered around women’s health. Students indicate their topic of interest, and Richardson assigned them groups from there. 

“It’s not just about learning, it’s about giving back and working with communities that need assistance,” Richadson said. 

These projects, which have been a part of the class for several years, are more than just learning about women’s health, they’re about reaching into the community, Richardson said.

“I think it’s something that's really important and something that the AU community should be interested in,” Richardson said. “Especially living in the District of Columbia where sex work is a big part of the city.”

Matilde Eckford, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, was interested in studying the health of sex workers. But soon, the class project turned into a club. 

The About Sex Work AU club is active on its Instagram page, where they post educational infographics, including the history of the sex work industry. Additionally, the club has been tabling inside the Mary Graydon Center to reach students. 

“It’s really just showing people that [sex work] is very normal. This is a real profession,” Eckford said. 

The main goal of the organization is to destigmatize sex work through education. On their Instagram, they’ve done this by posting information on where they post educational infographics, including the history of the sex work industry.

The organization used Instagram to properly define terms within the sex work industry. For example, the club defines sex workers as individuals who accept payment in return for sexual services as well as other commonly used terms like commercial sex, clients and third parties. 

“When you learn about specific terminology, and the ways in which those terms impact sex workers, and what terms are preferred, it helps break down stigmas,” Eckford said. “Then also you can use language that is not nearly as offensive and is better for education.”

According to About Sex Work AU, stigmas are the biggest barriers to the decriminalization of sex work. For example, sex workers living with HIV are faced with negative stereotypes. On its Instagram, the club also shares statistics about sexual violence and sex workers — sex workers have an increased chance of experiencing sexual violence while working and sex workers of color, migrant sex workers and transgender sex workers are at an even higher risk. Looking into the future, the group plans to break down these stigmas with students on campus. 

“It’s one of those things where I know a lot of people have a relatively liberal attitude towards sex work, but I think not too many people know more than OnlyFans or the real issues that a lot of sex workers face,” Eckford said. 

The group plans to become an official club this semester, with hopes to reach into the D.C. community by partnering with other organizations. 

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