Negotiating Sex Work
Unintended Consequences of Policy and Activism
Publication Year: 2014
Globally, discussions about sex work focus on exploitation. The media regularly provides us with stories about teen girls coerced to perform sexual acts for money, frequently beaten and robbed by their pimps or traffickers. While one would have to be hard-pressed to deny that sex workers are victimized, the popular media and our political leaders emphasize sex work as exclusively exploitative. In Negotiating Sex Work, Carisa R. Showden and Samantha Majic present a series of essays that depict sex work as an issue far more complex than generally perceived.
Positions on sex work are primarily divided between those who consider that selling sexual acts is legitimate work and those who consider it a form of exploitation. Organized into three parts, Negotiating Sex Work rejects this either/or framework and offers instead diverse and compelling contributions that aim to reframe these viewpoints. Part I addresses how knowledge about sex work and sex workers is generated. The next section explores how nations and political actors who claim to protect individuals in sex work often further marginalize them. Finally, part III examines sex workers’ own political-organizational efforts to combat laws and policies that deem them deviant, sinful, or total victims.
A timely and necessary intervention into sex work debates, this volume challenges how policy makers and the broader public regard sex workers’ capacity to advocate for their own interests.
Contributors: Cheryl Auger; Sarah Beer, Dawson College, Montreal; Michele Tracy Berger, U of North Carolina–Chapel Hill; Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette, Federal U of Rio de Janeiro; Raven Bowen; Gregg Bucken-Knapp, U of Gothenburg, Sweden; Ana Paula da Silva, Federal U of Viçosa; Valerie Feldman; Gregor Gall, U of Bradford; Kathleen Guidroz, Georgetown U; Annie Hill, U of Minnesota; Johan Karlsson Schaffer, U of Oslo; Edith Kinney, Mills College; Yasmin Lalani; Pia Levin; Alexandra Lutnick; Tamara O’Doherty, U of the Fraser Valley, British Columbia; Joyce Outshoorn, U of Leiden; Francine Tremblay, Concordia U, Montreal.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Introduction: The Politics of Sex Work
Carisa R. Showden and Samantha Majic
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In the United States and across the globe, sex workers—individuals who exchange sexual services for cash or other goods—often conduct their work clandestinely. The recent politics of sex work, however, are a much more visible matter. In 2008 in San Francisco, for example, prostitutes’ rights activists spearheaded Proposition K, a ballot measure that would have barred local police officers from arresting or investigating...
Part I. Sex Work and the Politics of Knowledge Production
1. Researching Sexuality: The Politics-of-Location Approach for Studying Sex Work
Michele Tracy Berger and Kathleen Guidroz
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Qualitative researchers customarily consider how the visible aspects of their identity (i.e., race and gender) affect how their interviewees might respond to them. Other aspects of the researcher’s identity, such as sexuality, are concealable and likely to remain invisible throughout the research encounter. However, qualitative social science research on sex work often brings the issue of sexuality...
2. Beyond Prescientific Reasoning: The Sex Worker Environmental Assessment Team Study
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Sex work, the exchange of sexual services for some type of payment, is primarily a criminal offense in the United States. Moralistic interpretations of sex work, coupled with its illegal status, result in the “whore stigma” being projected onto sex workers (Benoit et al. 2005) by researchers, academics, policymakers, law enforcement officials, and the general public. It is this legal and social labeling that results in sex workers being categorized...
3. Participant-Driven Action Research (PDAR) with Sex Workers in Vancouver
Raven Bowen and Tamara O’Doherty
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Historically, academics, practitioners, and policymakers have treated sex workers, like many other marginalized groups, as the subjects of research by limiting—or denying—their opportunities to participate in designing and guiding research. Typically, researchers will approach sex workers with projects that have already been conceptualized, designed, funded, and approved by ethics boards and academic institutions...
Part II. Producing the Sex Worker: Law, Politics, and Unintended Consequences
4. Demanding Victims: The Sympathetic Shift in British Prostitution Policy
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At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the British government moved to modernize sex crime legislation. This initiative was part of a generalized political project to renew Britain. Prime Minister Tony Blair declared in Modernising Government that “the Government has a mission to modernise—renewing our country for the new millennium. We are modernising our schools, our hospitals, our economy and our criminal justice system” (Cabinet Office 1999, 4)...
5. Criminalized and Licensed: Local Politics, the Regulation of Sex Work, and the Construction of “Ugly Bodies”
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Just months after the Ontario Superior Court ruled that a number of provisions in Canada’s Criminal Code violate sex workers’ constitutionally protected rights to security of person and freedom of association (Bedford v. Canada 2010), a Toronto city councilor suggested creating a red-light district on Toronto Island, located just off the city shore and accessible by ferry.1 Giorgio Mammoliti said, “I’ve always suggested that...
6. Bad Girls and Vulnerable Women: An Anthropological Analysis of Narratives Regarding Prostitution and Human Trafficking in Brazil
Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette and Ana Paula da Silva
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When the Brazilian Congress ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (also known as the “Palermo Protocol”) in 2004 and approved its National Plan to Combat Human Trafficking (PNETP) in 2008, the Brazilian federal government recognized the need to act against trafficking in persons. This development represents an advance in the fight against modern slavery in...
7. Raids, Rescues, and Resistance: Women’s Rights and Thailand’s Response to Human Trafficking
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Streams of men came and went throughout the night. Former police investigators and legal professionals from the International Justice Mission (IJM), a faith-based American nongovernmental organization (NGO), surveilled the brothel, looking for evidence of sex trafficking.1 IJM hired a local man to go undercover, posing as a customer to gain access to the brothel’s interior.2 He counted the condoms in the trash, mapped the...
8. The Contested Citizenship of Sex Workers: The Case of the Netherlands
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The Netherlands decriminalized prostitution in 1999 by lifting the ban on brothels and allowing for regulation of the sex industry. Prostitution was recognized as work and prostitutes as regular workers who are entitled to the social and legal rights accompanying that status.1 Fundamental to the new act lifting the ban (Wet Opheffing bordeelverbod, Staatsblad 1999, 464, 9 November 1999) is the distinction between voluntary...
9. Comrades, Push the Red Button! Prohibiting the Purchase of Sexual Services in Sweden but Not in Finland
Gregg Bucken-Knapp, Johan Karlsson Schaffer, and Pia Levin
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For scholars of sex work, Sweden’s decision to criminalize the purchase, albeit not the sale, of sexual services in 1999 represents a legislative development that has been the subject of considerable analysis. Scholars have presented many explanations as to why Sweden, under the governing Social Democratic Party, became the first state to regard prosecuting the buyer as an effective policy for reducing prostitution...
Part III. Negotiating Status: The Promises and Limits of Sex Worker Organizing
10. Collective Interest Organization among Sex Workers
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The “sex work” discourse posits that the act of carrying out sexual services is an act of labor and work on par with others forms of “conventional” labor and work in the service sector. Some forms of labor have often been denoted as “erotic” and “emotional,” where the “heart” is managed and commercialized (Hochschild 2003). Consequently, those who provide sexual services are workers, and more specifically...
11. Sex Work Politics and the Internet: Carving Out Political Space in the Blogosphere
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In the three years that I conducted participant observation with U.S.-based sex workers’ rights activists (2007–10),1 I heard this line many times, both as a warning to be open and reflexive about my own research and also as a criticism of historical trends in cultural and intellectual productions about sex work. Though a few sex workers have published popular books about their experiences in the industry, sex workers’ rights activists in the United States bemoan the vast production...
12. Gender Relations and HIV/AIDS Education in the Peruvian Amazon: Female Sex Worker Activists Creating Community
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Recent scholarship on sex work has recognized the power of sex workers’ political organizing and activism as integral to the development of women’s social, sexual, and political agency (Biradavolu et al. 2009; Kempadoo and Dozema 1998). Tied to this, numerous studies have shown that some sex worker organizations have made formidable eff orts to increase sex workers’ HIV-related knowledge and strategies for condom use (Ghose, Swenderman, George, and Chowdhury 2008; Sanders 2006; Wahab 2004)...
13. Sex Workers’ Rights Organizations and Government Funding in Canada
Sarah Beer and Francine Tremblay
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Sex worker–run advocacy organizations emerged in major Canadian cities throughout the late 1970s and 1980s. These small, loosely affiliated groups supported individual sex workers at a local level and promoted their rights internationally by denouncing criminalization, stigmatization, harassment, and violence directed at people who work in the sex industry (Brock 1998). The emergent movement for sex workers’ rights was dramatically altered by the AIDS epidemic in the mid-1980s...
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Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2014