Some people use the term to avoid invoking the stigma associated with the word "prostitute".
The term "sex worker" was coined in 1978 by sex worker activist Carol Leigh.
In regions where sex work is illegal, advocates for sex workers' rights argue that the covert nature of illegal prostitution is a barrier to access to legal resources.
However, some who oppose the legalization of prostitution argue that sex work is inherently exploitative and can never be legalized or practiced in a way that respects the rights of those who perform it.
The term is used in reference to all those in all areas of the sex industry including those who provide direct sexual services as well as the staff of such industries.