"By learning the intimate details of the women's lives, seeing them as humans rather than victims, we see our similarities. The "us" and "them" that the stigmatization of sex work in society creates begins to erode.
"Society has a way of devaluing sex workers of all kinds (whether strippers, escorts or porn actors). Most of us engage in it to some degree at some point in our lives, yet we moralize, we judge and we blame. Although prostitution is criminalized in most parts of the US, sex-for-money services are in-demand. (How else could one make a living this way?) Still, the choices of those who offer them are scrutinized and stigmatized. For a sex worker to report violence against her is to risk further violence. If Gilbert had been raped and beaten but survived, would the police have been any more help?
"There is something intensely wrong with a society in which human beings can disappear, only to be discovered years later as bones. There is something even more wrong when the bones' connection to prostitution is somehow used to justify their fates. The role, legality and implications of sex work is a complicated dialogue, but one that should be happening more often, more loudly and more inclusively – because whatever system is currently in place is clearly not functional.
"Kolker's book is a starting point for that dialogue because it is possibly the realest, fullest picture of what is happening with sex work in the US right now. Other than hoping that their killer is someday arrested, the most we can offer these women now is our time to read and understand their lives, our thoughts to consider our own role in the society that failed them, and how the next time might be different. "