Victim framing in public discourse on sex trafficking does make a difference, and the reasons these frames elicit different responses are complex and moderated by respondents’ exposure to information and knowledge about the issue.
This paper highlights important environmental dimensions of HIV vulnerability by describing how the sex trade operates in Nairobi, Kenya. Although sex workers there encounter various forms of violence and harassment, as do sex workers globally, we highlight how they do not merely fall victim to a set of environmental risks but also act upon their social environment, thereby remaking it, as they strive to protect their health and financial interests. In so doing, we illustrate the mutual constitution of ‘agency’ and ‘structure’ in social network formations that take shape in everyday lived spaces. Our findings point to the need to expand the focus of interventions to consider local ecologies of security in order to place the local knowledges, tactics, and capacities that communities might already possess on centre stage in interventions. Planning, implementing, and monitoring interventions with a consideration of these ecologies would tie interventions not only to the risk reduction goals of global public health policy, but also to the very real and grounded financial priorities of what it means to try to safely earn a living through sex work.
Paradoxically, in the 19th century, an era very concerned with public virtue, prostitutes were increasing being represented in Western European cultural expressions. Prostitution was a prevalent social phenomenon due to the rapid urbanization of Western Europe. People were on the move as both urban and rural areas underwent considerable material and normative change; the majority of Western European cities grew rapidly and were marked by harsh working and living conditions, as well as unemployment and poverty. A seeming rise in prostitution was one of the results of these developments, but its centrality in culture cannot be explained by this fact alone. Prostitution also came to epitomize broader social ills associated with industrialization and urbanization: “the prostitute” became the discursive embodiment of the discontent of modernity.
The surge in cultural representation of prostitutes may also be seen as an expression of changing norms and a driver for change in the public perception of prostitution. In particular, artists came to employ the prostitute as a motif, revealing contemporary hypocrisy about gender and class.