At a pivotal point in the global movement for escort girls and women in the 1970s and 1980s, the term “sex work” first surfaced. Carol Leigh, an American sex worker, performer, academic, and activist, coined the term “prostitute” in order to remove the prior connotations of moral corruption, filth, and sometimes helplessness associated with the term. Sex work highlights the time-consuming socio-sexual and financial exchanges that constitute this fundamental institution. The slogan served to unite sex industry employees with other marginalized groups, including migrant and immigrant organizations, human rights coalitions, proponents for workplace safety, and numerous organizations that protect the welfare of women, girls, and other underrepresented groups. Although the terms “sex work” and “prostitution” are sometimes used synonymously, many escort girls especially escort girls in Haifa, activists, and scholars prefer the former. The previous term “prostitute” is commonly used, sometimes as a verb in the past tense, “prostituted,” among radical, abolitionist, and evangelical communities that consider all types of sex work as oppressive, passive manifestations of male aggression against women.

Since more than a century ago, almost every recognized discipline has been interested in the subject, and it is just growing. These studies are carried out by individual researchers, community-based organizations, multi-million dollar partnerships supported by governmental, private, and corporate interests, as well as individuals who work in the sex business. They are approached through the use of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methodologies, as well as research based on the arts and methodologies intended to bring about social and legal change. Numerous initiatives supported by the sex business operate as powerful spurs for political activism. The typical focus of these studies has changed from the Global North or by Northern Scholars to the Global South as more sex work research and related projects come out of the Global South.