Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Prostitution of Sexuality

The Prostitution of Sexuality

Kathleen Barry
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 504
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Prostitution of Sexuality
    Book Description:

    In 1979, Kathleen Barry's landmark book, Female Sexual Slavery, pulled back the curtain on a world of abuse prostitution that shocked the world. Documenting in devastating detail the lives of street prostitutes and the international traffic in women, Barry's work was called powerful and compassionate by Adrienne Rich and a courageous and crusading book that should be read everywhere by Gloria Steinem. The Los Angeles Times found it a powerful work filled with disbelief, outrage, and documentation . . . sexual bondage shackles women as much today as it has for centuries.In The Prostitution of Sexuality, Barry assesses where we are 15 years later, how far we've come and, more importantly, how far we have still to go. Shifting her focus from the sexuality of prostitution to the prostitution of sexuality, Barry exposes the practice of teenage sexual exploitation and the flourishing Asian sex tour industry, emphasizing the world-wide role of the expanding multi-billion dollar pornography industry. The work identifies the global conditions of sexual exploitation, from sex industrialization in developing countries to te normalization of prostitution in the West. The Prostitution of Sexuality considers sexual exploitation a political condition and thus the foundation of women's subordination and the base from which discrimination against women is constructed and enacted. Breaking new ground, Barry convincingly argues for the need to integrate the struggle against sexual exploitation in prostitution into broader feminist struggles and to place it, as one of several connected issues, in the forefront of the feminist agenda.Barry concludes the book with a sampling of strategies-- international, regional, local, and personal--that feminist activists have employed successfully since the early 1980s, highlighting new international legal strategies for human rights resulting from her work.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8608-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    Kathleen Barry
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    Sexual exploitation objectifies women by reducing them to sex; sex that incites violence against women and that reduces women to commodities for market exchange. Sexual exploitation is the foundation of women’s oppression socially normalized. This is a difficult and painful subject to study. I tried to back away from this painfulness when I wroteFemale Sexual Slavery. I said then:

    When a friend first suggested that I write a book on what I was describing to her as female sexual slavery, I resisted the idea. I had gone through the shock and horror of learning about it in the late...

  5. 1 Prostitution of Sexuality
    (pp. 20-48)

    “What is a woman? Ans: Support system for a pussy.” That sign, nailed to a post on the street of an outdoor bar, summarized the sex industries, not only there in Angeles in the Philippines, but everywhere. The next sign, “Protect yourself from AIDS, use condoms,” made it appear that under these conditions, aids was the only risk to women. This was only one scene that I thought about in 1993 as I was sitting on a panel in Manila, in a legal forum organized to address the question, “Are women’s rights human rights?” Listening to my colleagues on the...

  6. 2 Sexual Power
    (pp. 49-90)

    Lisa Mamac, born in a rural farming village in the Philippines, tried to escape the inevitability of marrying there and raising her own family in the poverty in which she grew up. Like many women moving from rural to urban areas as their country is industrializing, Lisa left her village for a large city with plans to go to school. Rural to urban migration socially dislocates women and girls as patriarchal power in traditional societies provides almost no possibilities for women outside of marriage or their family. Under these conditions women are made particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Away from...

  7. 3 Josephine Butler: The First Wave of Protest
    (pp. 91-121)

    In 1798, two private physicians were given the task of examining Parisian prostitutes; they were required to report to the police any cases of infection. In 1802, a dispensary was established, and the police began registering all public prostitutes, who were required to submit to semiweekly examinations.¹ In 1871, at the International Medical Congress in Vienna, an international law was proposed to make regulation uniform throughout the world.² By the middle of the century, this system had developed into regulation—state-supported prostitution. The state-regulated brothel(maison close)made prostitution legitimate. Regulation was accepted by many as a social reform that...

  8. 4 Industrialization of Sex
    (pp. 122-164)

    Since 1970, the most dramatic changes in prostitution have been its industrialization, normalization, and widespread global diffusion. Prostitution has overtaken populations of women, especially in newly industrializing economies. Present estimates place prostitution at 2 million in Thailand, 1 to 1.5 million in Korea, and 0.5 million in the Philippines. The industrialization of sex has produced a multibillion-dollar global market in women, at home and abroad, in highly organized trafficking and in the most diffused, informal arrangements.

    Industrialization has typically referred to mass production of manufactured goods and of services for exchange on the market. I am using the term “industrialization...

  9. 5 Traffic in Women
    (pp. 165-197)

    Trafficking in women is the oldest, most traditional form of procuring for prostitution. It predates sex industrialization and is extensive in primarily rural, poor and pre-industrial societies. Traffickers are traders in human beings who either buy women from husbands, buy children from parents, fraudulently promise them well-paying jobs or lucrative marriages at the other end, or they abduct them. Traffickers take their acquisitions to market via overland routes or, through the more sophisticated crime gangs such as Yakuza in Japan, they transfer women and girls by air to their destination, usually a brothel where acquired women and children are sold...

  10. 6 Pimping: The Oldest Profession
    (pp. 198-219)

    Across nation-states pimping, “living off the earnings of a prostitute,” is illegal. But proprostitution movements in the West now propose to decriminalize pimping so that pimps can be treated as lovers or husbands, not enslavers of prostitute women. But it is a fact of prostitution that once a woman “tricks” for a man, she is never again not his “whore.” He thinks of her as such, whether or not he is otherwise known to her as husband, lover, brother, or father.

    In all the world regions, estimates from organizations addressing the exploitation of women in prostitution, including some prostitution groups,...

  11. 7 The State: Patriarchal Laws and Prostitution
    (pp. 220-249)

    Laws on prostitution vary significantly from one country to another but generally fall into 3 categories: prohibition, which makes all prostitution illegal; regulation, which legalizes and regulates prostitution; and abolition, which decriminalizes prostitution. In all three systems and their variations, pimping—living off the earnings of a prostitute—is illegal.

    Regardless of which legal approach to prostitution a given state adopts, a form of prostitution—visible street solicitation, which is usually the lowest category in the prostitution hierarchy—singles out women for social and legal condemnation and punishment. Street prostitution is illegal or unacceptable in most countries. Because it is...

  12. 8 Patricia Hearst: Prototype of Female Sexual Slavery
    (pp. 250-275)

    There is a captivation with the disappeared woman or child—the suspenseful waiting—each piece of news generating more curiosity, more attention to accounts, holding an increasingly larger public with fascination. There is a sense in which the disappeared woman is unattached, loosened from patriarchal grips, outside of her family of origin, her marriage, disconnected from husband or lover. There is an unknown as to what the new configuration of the disconnected, unattached woman’s new life will be. Woman is assumed to be wild and roving when she is not controlled by patriarchal power.

    During the time Patricia Hearst eluded...

  13. 9 Human Rights and Global Feminist Action
    (pp. 276-322)

    Strategies to confront sexual exploitation should be as global as the economy is international and as the dimensions of women’s subordination are universal, and as radical as is the rootedness of the prostitution of sexuality. As domination produces despair, struggle for liberation is the act of hope. Hope shatters the conviction that domination is inevitable, especially in the case of sexual exploitation, particularly in regard to prostitution.

    The primary reason why I have been able to continue this work (even, at times, against my personal will) is because of those women whose feminist consciousness of domination has enabled them to...

  14. Appendix: Proposed Convention Against Sexual Exploitation, Draft of January 1994
    (pp. 323-344)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 345-368)
  16. Index
    (pp. 369-382)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 383-383)