Speed Reads


John Oliver dissects America's 'confusing and counterproductive' sex work laws

"Sex is a topic that historically we've not been very good at talking about," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. And the sex topic he hoped to talk better about is sex work.

"The concept is pretty simple," Oliver said. "Let's say you have sex but afterwards you get money or a chocolate bar or one of those participation trophies — way better, right? Well, too bad, it's illegal. Very basically, sex work is the exchange of sex for money or good, and in the United States, a complicated patchwork of local, state, and federal laws makes that act illegal everywhere except for a few counties in Nevada" — unless it's on camera.

"Basically, consensual sex for money on camera is legal porn, and consensual sex for money off-camera is illegal sex work," Oliver said. "Makes sense, right? Wrong? Well, exactly. Everything about the way we regulate sex work in this country is confusing and counterproductive." He started by noting that "this is not going to be a piece about morality," but rather "about the fact that sex work is inarguably labor; it is a job."

Oliver does not show any actual sex or nudity but he does use quite a bit of NSFW language in detailing his problems with and solutions for how the U.S. (and other countries) regulate sex work.