May 29, 2008, 10:51AM

Does That Count As A Work-Study Job?

Many young women find their way into the sex industry, but not all find a way to make it a safe and empowering experience. At UCLA, a few motivated student activists are working to raise awareness and reverse the stigma of students paying bills with their bodies.

"But Mariko Passion, a self-described “urban geisha,” UCLA alumna and sex-worker activist, said she sees sex work in a more positive, not to mention empowering, way.

As the founder of the UCLA chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project and a paid escort, Passion said she uses her sexual experiences with her clients as a form of therapy.

“I have always been very proud of who I am and what I do. It helps me to really come into touch with my sexuality,” Passion said.

She said that some of the perks included when working in the sex industry include travel opportunities, flexible hours and, of course, good pay.

During the day, Passion devotes her time to running the project, focusing on major issues surrounding the sex-worker community, such as AIDS prevention, business and the ambitious plan to decriminalize prostitution.

“We should wield all profits from the usage of our bodies. We should get residuals, just like everybody else, but there’s nobody who’s really teaching the business aspect of this,” Passion says, citing what she calls the “whore’s religion” of bodily self-ownership.

Passion started the project in Southern California while she was a graduate student at UCLA. Now that she’s graduated, the program has expanded, taking money from the state to test sex workers for AIDS.


  • I think destigmatization is a very negative movement all together. There should be only more stigmas. It's the glue of the civilized world. Without stigmas we'd have a bunch of bastards calling the shots the world over, literally. Shame is an undervalued method of value preservation. I know I wouldn't want my daughter educated toward the democratic dream of one day becoming either "an astronaut or prostitute, I'm not sure yet." I would hope she might feel intuitively the shame of choosing a career in space travel.

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