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Negotiating Sex Work

Negotiating Sex Work: Unintended Consequences of Policy and Activism

Carisa R. Showden
Samantha Majic
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctt6wr77g
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  • Book Info
    Negotiating Sex Work
    Book Description:

    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. InNegotiating 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 Workrejects 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4117-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Politics of Sex Work
    (pp. xiii-xl)
    Carisa R. Showden and Samantha Majic

    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 recentpoliticsof 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 or prosecuting anyone for selling sex. Advocates claimed this would free up $11 million per year in police resources and allow prostitutes to form collectives and defend their rights as workers (YesOnPropK.org 2009). However, they...

  6. Part I. Sex Work and the Politics of Knowledge Production

    • CHAPTER 1 Researching Sexuality: The Politics-of-Location Approach for Studying Sex Work
      (pp. 3-30)
      Michele Tracy Berger and Kathleen Guidroz

      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 (for both the researcher and the researched) to the front and center in unanticipated ways. Yet researchers’ silence around sexuality seems to be the norm, and with a few exceptions (Bellamy, Gott, and Hinchliff 2011; Brak-Lamy 2012; Manalansan 2006) scholars’ published works do...

    • CHAPTER 2 Beyond Prescientific Reasoning: The Sex Worker Environmental Assessment Team Study
      (pp. 31-52)
      Alexandra Lutnick

      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 as a hidden population in research studies. Hidden populations are best categorized by three characteristics. First, the size of group membership is unknown, making it particularly difficult to obtain a...

    • CHAPTER 3 Participant-Driven Action Research (PDAR) with Sex Workers in Vancouver
      (pp. 53-74)
      Raven Bowen and Tamara O’Doherty

      Historically, academics, practitioners, and policymakers have treated sex workers, like many other marginalized groups, as thesubjectsof 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. As a result, sex workers are excluded from key phases of knowledge production about their lives and work—the research instruments have been finalized, research assistants have been hired, and the data analysis strategies have been decided. Generally, the only remaining role for sex workers...

  7. Part II. Producing the Sex Worker:: Law, Politics, and Unintended Consequences

    • CHAPTER 4 Demanding Victims: The Sympathetic Shift in British Prostitution Policy
      (pp. 77-98)
      Annie Hill

      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 inModernising Governmentthat “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). Regarding sex crime, members of Parliament across the political spectrum agreed that offenses for homosexual acts should be removed from the criminal code, while new legislation should criminalize diverse activities such...

    • CHAPTER 5 Criminalized and Licensed: Local Politics, the Regulation of Sex Work, and the Construction of “Ugly Bodies”
      (pp. 99-120)
      Cheryl Auger

      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 the best way to deal with this is to create one area that is away from the rest of the city and residential community for the most part,” adding that a state-run red-light district would...

    • CHAPTER 6 Bad Girls and Vulnerable Women: An Anthropological Analysis of Narratives Regarding Prostitution and Human Trafficking in Brazil
      (pp. 121-144)
      Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette and Ana Paula da Silva

      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 interrasbrasilis, a fight some say began with the Eusébio de Queirós law of 1850 and the prohibition of the transatlantic slave trade. However, the PNETP is by no means devoid of problems. In a country where laws are...

    • CHAPTER 7 Raids, Rescues, and Resistance: Women’s Rights and Thailand’s Response to Human Trafficking
      (pp. 145-170)
      Edith Kinney

      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 facility, and made recordings of women working in the brothel without their knowledge or consent. IJM reported their findings to a local antitrafficking task force, including evidence suggesting that some women in the brothel were trafficked...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Contested Citizenship of Sex Workers: The Case of the Netherlands
      (pp. 171-194)
      Joyce Outshoorn

      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 sex work, which is legal, and forced prostitution, which is illegal. Human trafficking is regarded as a fundamental component of the latter. However, in the past decade it has become evident that women working in the...

    • CHAPTER 9 Comrades, Push the Red Button! Prohibiting the Purchase of Sexual Services in Sweden but Not in Finland
      (pp. 195-218)
      Gregg Bucken-Knapp, Johan Karlsson Schaffer and Pia Levin

      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. Some accounts stress the importance of feminist policymakers and elites (Ekberg 2004; Östergren 2006), others highlight the significance of Sweden’s membership in the European Union (Gould 2001), and still others emphasize the long-term residual impact of Swedish...

  8. Part III. Negotiating Status:: The Promises and Limits of Sex Worker Organizing

    • CHAPTER 10 Collective Interest Organization among Sex Workers
      (pp. 221-242)
      Gregor Gall

      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 specificallysex workers. And among sex workers, commentators, and social scientists, the sex work discourse has now been sufficiently established and accepted, and one of the significant issues emanating from it concerns the representation of...

    • CHAPTER 11 Sex Work Politics and the Internet: Carving Out Political Space in the Blogosphere
      (pp. 243-266)
      Valerie Feldman

      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 and consumption of scholarly and journalistic information on sex work that neither benefits their political efforts for the recognition of sex...

    • CHAPTER 12 Gender Relations and HIV/AIDS Education in the Peruvian Amazon: Female Sex Worker Activists Creating Community
      (pp. 267-286)
      Yasmin Lalani

      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 efforts to increase sex workers’ HIV-related knowledge and strategies for condom use (Ghose, Swenderman, George, and Chowdhury 2008; Sanders 2006; Wahab 2004). While sex worker organizations are steadily gaining momentum internationally, there is still a need to investigate more deeply the gendered social relations that surround and influence sex...

    • CHAPTER 13 Sex Workers’ Rights Organizations and Government Funding in Canada
      (pp. 287-310)
      Sarah Beer and Francine Tremblay

      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. Activists had to turn away from their original political goals and join public health initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS transmission, all the while disputing the image of sex workers as vectors of...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 311-314)
  10. Index
    (pp. 315-336)