The 'Nordic Model' of Sex Work A fig leaf for politicians, at the expense of sex workers.

By Tom Deckard June 10. 2021

Conservative circles praise the "Nordic Model" as a solution to the "problem" of prostitution. This model, first introduced in Sweden and therefore formerly known as the "Swedish Model", is a law that does not punish the sale of sexual services, but only the purchase. Sex workers therefore remain unpunished, clients are punished. In addition, there are more incentives for sex workers to make it easier for them to switch to other jobs.

The main motivation for this and similar models of prohibition is always cited as fighting human trafficking and abuse, which is said to make up a large part of the sex trade.

Sex Work Demo Berlin 2015, photo: h3xtacy

Studies published by the supporters of the model show of course a positive effect with a reduction of exploitation and trafficking.

However, what these studies conceal and independent studies prove is the following:

The ban on buying sex was never aimed at the welfare of sex workers, but only at enforcing religious morals
"In Northern Ireland, data was collected by Queen's University Belfast before and after the introduction of a sex purchase ban, allowing a direct comparison. After the introduction of the so-called sex purchase ban, neither a reduction in demand nor in the number of sex workers was observed; there was also no discernible impact on the numbers of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation."

United Nations: Eliminating discrimination against sex workers and securing their human rights

Press release BesD, professional association for erotic and sexual services, Germany 11.07.2023.pdf

Declaration from the ProCoRe Organisation (German)

Arte TV: Schweden - Wo Sexarbeiterinnen keine Rechte haben (youtube)

Arte TV: Schweden - Wo Sexarbeiterinnen keine Rechte haben (daylimotion)

Update August 2023: The European Court of Human Rights declares admissible the actions of persons lawfully engaged in prostitution who claim to be victims of the law criminalizing the purchase of prostitution services (Nordic Model).

As organisations of sex workers confirm, the development and application of the "Nordic Model of Prostitution" was never about the welfare of women, men and transsexuals. The few inputs the developers received were completely ignored. The "Nordic Model" only serves as a fig leaf for politicians to show conservative voters that something is being done. With the presentation of the embellished studies, they are quickly satisfied, and the actual well-being of those affected is of no importance to them anyway.

From countries with regulated sex work, such as Switzerland or Germany, we know that the proportion of human trafficking in the erotic industry is comparable to that in geriatric care. It is therefore by no means justified to place the entire sex industry under general suspicion, as the view of strongly moralising circles demands.

Those who promote the "Nordic Model of Prostitution" are at best ignorant and ill-informed, blinded by religious fundamentalism, or profiteers from strengthening the black market. In any case, as a supporter, one proves one's inhumane attitude because one ignores the needs of those affected.

The "Nordic Model" is already in its earliest phase, namely as an idea in the head of some self-righteous moralist, a complete misconception. It could therefore only be realised thanks to direct contact with influential politicians who were also primarily interested in moralising. However, the problem they wanted to solve with the "Nordic Model" had to be created first. One-sided, distorting studies and stigmatising press reports were and are some of the methods that are deliberately used to present sex work as a problem.

What is the right way to deal with sex work instead?

First of all, one has to realise that sex work exists because sex is one of the most important human needs. And you have to realise that it is only stigmatised because the false morality of religion has been trying to portray sex as a sin for centuries. But our needs cannot simply be suppressed. Even the most faithful servants of God cannot do that. The suffering that results from this is not only seen in the scandals of the church; many people outside have also experienced psychological and physical suffering for generations because of this. But the supporters of the "Nordic model" have learned absolutely nothing from history.

Sex work is therapy and must be recognised as such.

Sex therapist is a recognised profession. But basically they do the same as any sex worker. What is interesting is that in a press article or a programme about sex therapists, none of the usual words about sex work appear, such as "human trafficking", "exploitation", "red light district" etc. All forms of sex work should be treated with this kind of respect.

Instead of creating problems for sex workers with prohibitions, we need to help this socially important service to gain recognition in order to end the stigmatisation and offer it a safe space - so that abuse no longer finds the fertile ground that prohibitions have prepared for it.

See also the article "The voices of sex workers".