How this sex worker found her true sexuality through her work, now all she wants is for it to be decriminalised

accreditation

Zoe Black is originally from Zimbabwe. She started selling sex as a means to provide for her four children after she left an unhappy marriage. 

You can read more about her story here

READ MORE: Sex work is work - why this woman chose to sell sex 

Sex work is currently illegal in South Africa. There has been a call for many years for the profession to be decriminalised and recognised as real work

There are a lot of myths around the sex work industry, especially about who does this kind of work.

She doesn’t label herself as a lesbian or bisexual or queer, but simply as “a woman who loves women.”

“It’s not only [cisgender] women who sell sex. Transwomen sell sex. Gay men sell sex. A [straight] man can sell sex and still go back to his wife and provide for his family. Lesbians sell sex. Queer people do sell sex. 

"Just because someone is butch or femme doesn’t mean they can’t sell sex. It’s just a transaction. It doesn’t interfere with someone’s passion or your intimacy with your partner,” Zoe says.

Zoe herself found a big part of who she was through her sex work. She found her true sexuality through her work. She doesn’t label herself as a lesbian or bisexual or queer, but simply as “a woman who loves women.”

She looks thoughtful as she says: “Being here [in South Africa] actually opened my sexuality. Instead of being hidden like I was in Zimbabwe. I didn’t know who I was.” 

Zoe never planned to sell sex, but it was a job that was available to her that she didn’t need a qualification for and something she was willing to do. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have goals and aspirations just like everyone else. “All I wanted was to be an artist. But between my dream and where I want to be, there are all these systematic challenges.

Seeing people other people around me also wanting to live their dreams, but sex work is criminalised. It’s a crime to sell sex, buy sex or live off the proceeds [from sex work] which means my children are criminalised,” she says.

READ MORE: Sugar daddy capitalism: even the world’s oldest profession is being uberised

So what about decriminalisation? Does she think it’s important? Does she want it to happen?

The answer is a big yes. 

“Homosexuality has been decriminalised; gay people can marry and have children. Apartheid laws have been scrapped around race, gender or sex. Sex work is one of the remaining laws that has not been changed in South Africa and I think it’s long overdue. People want to live freely and work. That doesn’t mean that the stigma won’t still be there and the discrimination. 

“The law needs to recognise that there is a group of people who believe strongly that this will help reduce HIV, trafficking and stigma.” 

The decriminalisation of sex work is all about creating a safe working environment for the people who choose to do this kind of work. To make sure they can report incidents to the police, to make sure they have access to healthcare and are able to be tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. 

“In a country like South Africa with a high unemployment rate, we’re not encouraging people to sell sex, it’s already happening. So why not it happen in a safer place?” says Zoe. 

READ MORE: She found her purpose being a sex worker 

Zoe and other people who sell sex want to make sure that their human rights are protected and that other people who chose to do so will be safe and protected.

For more information, visit SWEAT

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Luxity has released a report rating luxury brands according to popularity in South Africa. Which brand is your favourite?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Gucci
15% - 34 votes
Hermès
10% - 22 votes
Dolce & Gabbana
14% - 31 votes
Louis Vuitton
23% - 51 votes
Burberry
12% - 27 votes
Chanel
25% - 55 votes
Vote