The term denotes people who sell sex either in-person or digitally through photo and videos. Some prefer to use this term over prostitute because they belive “sex work is real work.” The term prostitute has a negative connotation, so by using the alternative— sex worker — one can project that they view selling sex as a profession that is just as equal or respectable as other professions. Propents of the term may view selling sex as empowering women and embracing their sexuality, reclaiming it from the male gaze by using those men for profit.
Those against the use of the term sex worker would argue that many in that line of work don’t have a choice and that saying that “sex work is real work” negates the experience of those who have been trafficked and/or faced sexual assault and exploitation. They view normalizing prostitution by refering to it as sex work as negative for society because it may mislead people to believe that selling sex is most often volentary.