Sex Work and Other Sins by Julianne King

Source: the poet
Paperback, 62 pgs.
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Sex Work and Other Sins by Julianne King is a slim collection of poems and essays about the resistance of women against the societal mechanisms that seek to push them into poverty when they have children to care for with little help from the fathers. There are a number of themes about family and trauma throughout the collection, but it is also about resilience and empowering yourself to prioritize what means the most in your life.

The opening poem in the collection, “this is an attack on my family.”, lays out that trauma:

this is an attack on my family.

in this family
we are not
the safe harbor
providing shelter and healing wounds
we are the tempest
prepare to be thrashed
clawed and sharpened
until you are ragged
and worn
in exactly the way 
we are
the way we recognize
in the way we find least

There are a lot of misconceptions about sex work in that people assume the women are promiscuous, are uneducated, and are immoral. But what happens when you look deeper into the reality of their lives and the struggles they face in a capitalistic society where money rules everything? How do you care for your children if your husband leaves you and you have bills to pay and mouths to feed? Would you choose working 3 jobs to pay the bills and never see your children or work one job you hate so you can earn enough to live and see your children grow?

cardinal red.


i prayed for my soul to
separate like a cardinal
and perch on the ceiling fan
to watch over me
to sing out a warning if he moved
to kill me
i guess it helped
that i already wanted to die
maybe he would do it for me or


Don’t think the entire collection is gloomy and angst-y. There are some humorous moments, particularly in my favorite poem, “dust.” Sex Work and Other Sins by Julianne King will have readers sitting back on their heels with its visceral emotion and anger at those of us who sit outside and judge. Many women often judge others until they are forced into situations where desperation causes them to make the same decisions they decried. Some women are not strong enough to fight for survival, while others are. What is the sin? Perhaps it is the judging of others.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Julianne King (she/her) is the author of Bible Belt Revolution. Her poetry has been featured in the South Florida Poetry Journal, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, and on Rattlecast Open Mic. King’s work focuses on mental health, surviving Christianity, reclaiming the body, and post-traumatic growth. She lives just outside of St. Louis, Missouri with her children and chosen family.