The Seattle City Council unanimously voted Monday to change the name of the crime “patronizing a prostitute” to “sexual exploitation.”
“Words matter,” City Attorney Pete Homes said in explaining why his office asked the City Council to change the name, according to a news release. “Using prostitute as a noun is demeaning and this change also reflects our more modern understanding that prostitution has lots of unwilling participants.”
Holmes said previously that the renaming won’t have a prosecutorial effect, but rather aims to change the way prostitution is viewed. Sexual exploitation is a simple misdemeanor, but the state Legislature may in its session that began Monday increase the maximum penalty for the offense from 90 days to a year in jail.
The name change is “one more step in the City’s efforts to rewrite the prostitution narrative to target sex buyers more and prostituted persons less,” according to the news release.
The notion that all sex workers are victims has been met with criticism. The Seattle chapter of a group called the Sex Worker Outreach Project held a three-day symposium last month as part of an effort to educate the public about sex work and advocate for sex-worker rights.