Politics Former Stripper Running for Congress Writes About Losing a Job and Sex Work Stigma: 'Shouldn't Be Taboo' Alexandra Hunt, who danced to pay the bills in college, is now a public health advocate and researcher, soccer coach and campaigning for Congress in Pennsylvania By Aaron Parsley Aaron Parsley Aaron Parsley has been a part of PEOPLE's digital team for more than 15 years. People Editorial Guidelines Published on February 28, 2022 11:49 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Getty A progressive Democrat who is running for Congress in Pennsylvania is reflecting on her past job as a stripper to pay for college, how it affected her other job as a girls' soccer coach and the stigma around sex work. "During college, I worked as a stripper and I have been vocal and forthcoming about sharing that experience, so as not to leave a heavily marginalized community in the shadows," Alexandra Hunt, who is running in Pennsylvania's 3rd Congressional District, wrote in an essay for HuffPost published Tuesday. After posting on social media about her previous job as a stripper, which Hunt, 28, said helped her "pay the bills" along with being a server in college, the soccer club that employed her through the COVID-19 pandemic confronted her. "They asked me to remove my statements while offering a demotion within the club: They were removing me from both the teams I coached. Bigotry and discrimination are painful, but what hurt the most was losing my players," she wrote. "My story is not unique. So many examples exist that highlight the stigma and job loss that impact individuals, especially women, when their past or current involvement in sex work is revealed." How Nearly Dying of COVID and Husband's Brain Surgery Shaped Texas Radio Reporter's 'Joy' Run for Governor While her campaign platform includes support for economic and racial justice, education reform and ending gun violence and other progressive causes, Hunt, who is also a public health researcher, wrote that she hopes to end the stigma of sex work and vowed in her essay to "work tirelessly against the notion of criminalized sex work and move the United States in the direction of reparative law" if she is elected to Congress. That plan is a part of her messaging to voters: The shop on her website includes T-shirts and sweatshirts that say "Elect Hoes" and "I may have danced for money but I'm no corporate whore." Fellow Democrats Austin Rodill and Michael Cogbill are her competitors in Pennsylvania's May 17 primary election. Decriminalization of sex work is one of the issues listed on Hunt's campaign site under a broader topic of criminal justice reform, but Hunt also connects the issue to the economy. "The reality is, in today's economy, more and more individuals are turning to the sex work industry to ensure their ability to pay their bills," she wrote in her HuffPost essay. "Younger people face an intersection of issues of not being able to afford houses, rising rent, student debt, high unemployment and low-paying jobs with very few answers or support coming from our government." Openly Gay Governor Criticizes Wave of Anti-LGBTQ Legislation as 'Un-American': 'Words Matter' The hardships she listed make the stigma of sex work even more risky because, she argued, people who chose to earn a living that way often feel ashamed or enticed to keep their job a secret. "My involvement in sex work was very dangerous: If I had gone missing, like so many sex workers do, no one would have known how or where to find me," she wrote. "I began speaking about sex work and my personal involvement in the industry on the campaign trail because every person in this country should experience unconditional safety." But Hunt — who holds two master's degrees and has worked in various health-related jobs as well as in community organizing, according to her campaign bio — said she has seen a shift in public opinion on sex workers and applauded it as progress in her essay. "Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups who face stigma, abuse and human rights violations," she writes. "However, due to heavy advocacy and organizing, the national conversation is shifting to where politicians are beginning to take sex workers and their needs more seriously." While Hunt hopes to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, she's already joined the broader debate about attitudes toward sex work, explaining her position in posts on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. Texas' Jasmine Crockett on the Leaders Inspiring Her Run for Congress: 'Bold' and 'Unapologetic' "Society sets up women with less capital than men, less power than men and objectifies our bodies. Sex work turns that power model on its head and allows women to own our sexuality, own our bodies and use that to bring both money and power to level the playing field," she wrote in her essay. "Sex shouldn't be taboo. It is a natural part of our lives that we enjoy and that individuals can choose to make their life's work," she continued. "After reflecting on your own enjoyment of sex, doesn't the criminalization of sex work seem utterly absurd and discriminatory?"