The term "sex worker" has since spread into much wider use, including in academic publications, by NGOs and labor unions, and by governmental and intergovernmental agencies, such as the World Health Organization.

The term is strongly opposed, however, by many who are morally opposed to the sex industry, such as social conservatives, anti-prostitution feminists, and other prohibitionists.

Some people use the term sex worker to avoid invoking the stigma associated with the word "prostitute".

Using the term sex worker rather than prostitute also allows more members of this industry to be represented and helps ensure that individuals who are actually prostitutes are not singled out and associated with the negative connotations of "prostitute".

All of the above can be undertaken either by free choice or by coercion.

Sex workers may also be hired to be companions on a trip or to perform sexual services within the context of a trip; either of these can be voluntary or forced labor.

Many studies struggle to gain demographic information about the prevalence of sex work, as many countries or cities have laws prohibiting prostitution or other sex work.

In addition, sex trafficking, or forced sex work, is also difficult to quantify due to its underground and covert nature.

Other sex workers are paid to engage in live sexual performance, such as web cam sex and performers in live sex shows.

Some sex workers perform erotic dances and other acts for an audience (striptease, Go-Go dancing, lap dancing, Neo-burlesque, and peep shows).

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