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Leaving Prostitution

Leaving Prostitution: Getting Out and Staying Out of Sex Work

Sharon S. Oselin
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    Leaving Prostitution
    Book Description:

    While street prostitutes comprise only a small minority of sex workers, they have the highest rates of physical and sexual abuse, arrest and incarceration, drug addiction, and stigmatization, which stem from both their public visibility and their dangerous work settings. Exiting the trade can be a daunting task for street prostitutes; despite this, many do try at some point to leave sex work behind. Focusing on four different organizations based in Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Hartford that help prostitutes get off the streets, Sharon S. Oselin'sLeaving Prostitutionexplores the difficulties, rewards, and public responses to female street prostitutes' transition out of sex work.Through in-depth interviews and field research with street-level sex workers, Oselin illuminates their pathways into the trade and their experiences while in it, and the host of organizational, social, and individual factors that influence whether they are able to stop working as prostitutes altogether. She also speaks to staff at organizations that aid street prostitutes, and assesses the techniques they use to help these women develop self-esteem, healthy relationships with family and community, and workplace skills. Oselin paints a full picture of the difficulties these women face in moving away from sex work and the approaches that do and do not work to help them transform their lives. Further, she offers recommendations to help improve the quality of life for these women. A powerful ethnographic account,Leaving Prostitutionprovides an essential understanding of getting out and staying out of sex work.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7072-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction: Leaving the Tricks and the Trade
    (pp. 1-19)

    Marquietta, a middle-aged African American woman, worked in prostitution for over 15 years in a large midwestern city. She was a woman with a sweet disposition and quick to help others, but was rather quiet and withdrawn in social settings. When talking one-on-one, however, she opened up and candidly recalled the events in her life bookended by her entrance and exit from sex work. Her first paid sex act occurred when she worked in customer service at a local paper. She sold sex to her manager and used the income to purchase drugs. When she was eventually terminated from her...

  5. 2 All in a Day’s Work: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
    (pp. 20-43)

    When Derica, an African American, was 10 years old she became a prostitute. Among the women I spoke with this was the youngest age of initial involvement in the sex trade. When I inquired about why she first engaged in prostitution, she prefaced her explanation by admitting that male family members had molested her for years. She recalled, “To be honest and truthful I didn’t realize I got involved in prostitution at such a very young age until recently. After some reflection and counseling it became clearer . . . my uncle that used to touch me he always gave...

  6. 3 Getting In: From the Streets to the Program
    (pp. 44-66)

    Roxanne engaged in prostitution for 38 years, holding one of the longest tenures of all the women included in this book. She was a known jokester at New Horizons, brandishing a smile just before she began teasing a staff member or fellow resident. Yet during one-on-one conversations when she spoke of more serious matters, her eyes would often fill with tears and her words would dry up mid-sentence as she became lost in thought. She had a very long history of drug addiction, commencing in her teens. Her single mother was a police officer, and often absent from the home;...

  7. 4 Getting On: Role Distancing
    (pp. 67-102)

    Beverly was a loquacious 35-year-old woman who had worked in prostitution for almost 19 years. During one of our many conversations she revealed the formidable circumstances she had experienced throughout her life, starting in her childhood. Her father was a drug dealer and pimp, and after her parents divorced when she was 10, her exposure to this deviant subculture was routine. After engaging in sex work at an early age, with her father’s approval, she began a long period of criminality. When I first met her she had three years of sobriety under her belt and had not returned to...

  8. 5 Still Getting On: Embracing a New Role and Identity
    (pp. 103-141)

    In a conversation I had with Hayley, a Hispanic New Horizons graduate, issues of her changed identity and role emerged as fundamental to her transition out of sex work. She had completed the program four years prior and was busy keeping up with the responsibilities of her new lifestyle. According to staff accounts and her own admission, Hayley put in considerable work to overcome the many disadvantages life bestowed upon her: Her father abandoned the family when she was only three years old, her mother was an alcoholic, and as the oldest of four siblings, Hayley was forced to grow...

  9. 6 Getting Out: Remaining Out of Sex Work
    (pp. 142-172)

    When I first began my fieldwork at Phoenix, Melissa was one of the most advanced program residents. She was often absent from the home due to her full-time job and college classes. But when there she made her presence known by checking in with other residents, serving as a role model, and spending time strategizing with staff about the future and her impending move. Nearing graduation, she considered herself a different person than when she first entered:

    I have built a new foundation to stand on. I am able to go on with my life, have my own apartment soon,...

    (pp. 173-182)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 183-190)
    (pp. 191-200)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 201-206)
    (pp. 207-207)