Monthly Archives: November 2013

Author: Shawna Ferris

Citation (APA): Ferris, S. (2007). Dangerous order: Globalization, Canadian cities, and street-involved sex work. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Digital Commons @ McMaster. (UMI No. AAINR36033).


My dissertation considers the effects of transnational free market economics, urbanization, and growing concerns regarding home and homeland security on contemporary representations of and responses to street-involved sex work in Canada. Foregrounding the current legality of prostitution in Canada, as well as the growing number of serial kidnap and murder cases involving sex workers nationwide, the project brings together two broader cultural debates regarding the moral and cultural legitimacy of prostitution, and the growing socioeconomic “disposability” of the poor and other culturally marginalized populations in an emergent global order. The project thus explores how contemporary Canadian culture registers the changing role of the human/e and of the urban under global capitalism. ^ Considering current responses to the disappearance of sixty-eight women—many of whom were street sex workers—from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Chapter One argues that sex workers’ traditional synecdochic relationship with the modern metropolis has become, in contemporary contexts, dangerously fraught. The gradual disintegration of such synecdoche, I argue, signifies the ongoing dissolution of socio-political ties between the nation-state and its citizenry. Chapter Two considers two imagistic tropes in sex work-related media reports, then analyzes urban anti-prostitution initiatives growing out of the Vancouver case and others. I argue that such tropes and actions further reify emerging discourses of street sex workers as cultural “waste.” Chapter Three examines sex worker activists’ interventions in such mainstream narrations. I discuss the political initiatives promoted on the websites of three major activist organizations, and explore the ways that online activism simultaneously expands and limits the cultural influence of these groups. Noting the over-representation of First Nations women among the victims in the Vancouver case and others, Chapter Four examines intersections between and resistance to Canada’s violent colonial history, racist public policies, and whore stigma in contemporary culture as they converge around Aboriginal women in Canada’s inner-city sex trade.

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Author: John Lowman

Citation (APA): Lowman, J. (2000). “Violence and the Outlaw Status of (Street) Prostitution in Canada.” Violence Against Women, 6(9), 987-1011.


This article constructs a profile of murders of sex workers in British Columbia from 1964 to 1998. The analysis reveals the relationships among media, law, political hypocrisy, and violence against street prostitutes. In particular, the article examines how the “discourse of disposal”—that is, media descriptions of the ongoing attempts of politicians, police, and residents’ groups to get rid of street prostitution from residential areas—contributed to a sharp increase in murders of street prostitutes in British Columbia after 1980.

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Ronald Weitzer (George Washington University): Sex Trafficking and the Sex Industry: The Need for Evidence-Based Theory and Legislation. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 101, No. 4, 2011.

Critical analysis of current U.S. policy on sex trafficking and recommendations for reforms in policy and enforcement.

Full text available here.

Cruz, Katie (2013): Unmanageable Work, (Un)liveable Lives: The UK Sex Industry, Labour Rights and the Welfare State,  Social & Legal Studies 22(4) 465–488. 


This article draws from interview material with sex worker rights activists in London, and sex work scholarship, to explore the demand for labour rights for sex workers and erotic dancers. I argue that there are two positions visible in activism and scholarship, which I term ‘liberal’ and ‘materialist’. Whilst the former posits that the problem with sex work is insufficient mainstreaming of commercial sex within the labour market, the latter stresses the need for protections and freedoms from the labour market and repressive criminal and immigration laws. I suggest that these two perspectives need to be thought together. To this end, for the first time in the UK context I ask what labour rights can do for erotic dancers and indoor-based sex workers. I argue that, whilst labour law may offer some level of protection, both forms of commercial sexual service are ultimately unmanageable and that the strategy of securing individual labour rights suffers from several limitations. In the final part, I map the materialist frames onto broader feminist citizenship debates. I ask whether these models can deliver the protections sought and tentatively propose that a feminist-oriented demand for a basic income may be of use to the sex worker rights movement today.

Author: Jodi Beniuk

Citation (MLA): Beniuk, Jodi. “Indigenous Women as the Other: An Analysis of the Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry.” The Arbutus Review 3. 2 (2012): 80-97.


In this paper, I discuss the ways in which Indigenous women are Othered by the proceedings of the Missing Women‘s Commission of Inquiry (MWCI). First, I give a basic overview of Beauvoir’s theory of women as Others, followed by Memmi’s analysis of the relationship between the colonized and the colonizer. I use these two theories to describe the way Indigenous women are Othered both as Indigenous peoples and as women, focusing on the context of the twenty-six who were murdered in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). The original murders were the result of the cultural reduction of Indigenous Women to their bodies. The negligent police investigations, as well as the misogynistic attitudes of the police, also demonstrate how Othering can operate within these institutions. I claim that the violence against women in the DTES was due to their status as Other. Notably, the MWCI, which is supposed to be a process that addresses the Othering-based negligence of the police, also includes instances of Othering in its structure and practice. From this, I conclude that we cannot rely on Othering institutions or legal processes to correct Othering as a practice. In the context of the MWCI, I suggest building alliances that support those who face this Othering as violence in their everyday lives.

Key terms: Othering; Indigenous Women; Downtown Eastside Vancouver

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Author: Becki L. Ross, 2010

Citation (APA): Ross, B. L. (2010). Sex and (Evacuation from) the City: The Moral and Legal Regulation of Sex Workers in Vancouver’s West End, 1975—1985. Sexualities, 13(2), 197-218.


For more than a century, prostitution in Vancouver, British Columbia has been at the centre of legal and political debate, policing, media coverage, and policy-making. From 1975 to 1985, a heterogeneous, pimp-free community of sex workers lived and worked on and around Davie Street in the city’s emerging ‘gay’ West End. Their presence sparked a vigorous backlash, including vigilante action, from multiple stake-holders intent on transforming the port town into a ‘world class city’ and venerable host of the World’s Fair, ‘Expo 1986’. In this article, drawing from interviews and archival material, I examine the abolitionist strategies adopted by Vancouver’s residents’ groups, business owners, politicians, and police to criminalize street solicitation and evacuate prostitutes who, in small numbers, ‘whorganized’ to fight back. The collective disavowal of sex workers as citizens was premised on the ‘cleansing’ of the zone under siege, which became whitened and made safe for bourgeois (queer) capitalism, with lethal consequences for outdoor sex workers in the city.

Keywords: expulsion, homonormative, moral regulation, neo-liberalism, sex work

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Author: Aziza Ahmed (@AzizaAhmed)

Citation (MLA): Ahmed, Aziza. “Feminism, power, and sex work in the context of HIV/AIDS: consequences for women’s health.” Harvard Journal of Law and Gender 34.1 (2011): 225-58.


This paper examines the involvement of feminists in approaches to sex work in the context of HIV/AIDS. The paper focuses on two moments where feminist disagreement produced results in favor of an “anti-trafficking” approach to addressing the vulnerability of sex workers in the context of HIV. The first is the UNAIDS Guidance Note on Sex Work and the second is the “anti-prostitution pledge” found in the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. This article also examines the anti-sex work position articulated by abolitionist feminists and demonstrates the unintended consequences of the abolitionist position on women’s health. By examining the actual impact of abolitionist positions, in favor of the anti-prostitution pledge and the criminalization of clients, we see that there are negative consequences for women despite the desire by abolitionists to improve women’s health.

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Jane Dodsworth (2013): Sexual Exploitation, Selling and Swapping Sex: Victimhood and Agency, in: Child Abuse Review. 


Drawing on a qualitative study of women involved in sex work in the UK, this paper focuses on the participants who became involved in sexual exploitation or, what some of them saw as, selling or swapping sex for non-monetary ‘payment’, under the age of 18. A central aim of the study was to develop an understanding of how the meaning ascribed to risk and protective factors influenced perceptions of victimhood and agency. Findings indicate that the key determinants of pathway outcomes were: whether, and how, the search for approval and affection was resolved; whether feeling ‘different’ led to a sense of defeat or strengthened resolve; whether coping strategies were adaptive or maladaptive; and whether individuals experienced the availability of a secure base. The findings suggest the need for policy which acknowledges the expertise and views of the young people involved, recognises the importance of early intervention, and is holistic in service provision not only for young people who are victims of sexual exploitation, but also for those who perceive that they have exercised agency, albeit from limited options, about their involvement in selling or swapping sex. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

‘How the meaning ascribed to risk and protective factors influenced perceptions of victimhood and agency’

Key Practitioner Messages

  • Policy and service provision must acknowledge the agency, expertise and views of the young people involved in sexual exploitation.
  • We need to build on the good practice already in existence in continuing to develop a model of intervention which promotes security and resilience.
  • Service interventions with young people involved in or at risk of sexual exploitation, selling and swapping sex must be trust building, respectful, relationship based, solution focused and strengths based.

‘Service interventions must be trust building, respectful, relationship based, solution focused and strengths based’

Smarajit Jana, Bharati Dey, Sushena Reza-Paul, Richard Steen (2013): Combating human trafficking in the sex trade: can sex workers do it better? in: Journal of Public Health.

Background The dominant anti-trafficking paradigm conflates trafficking and sex work, denying evidence that most sex workers choose their profession and justifying police actions that disrupt communities, drive sex workers underground and increase vulnerability.

Methods We review an alternative response to combating human trafficking and child prostitution in the sex trade, the self-regulatory board (SRB) developed by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC, Sonagachi).

Results DMSC-led interventions to remove minors and unwilling women from sex work account for over 80% of successful ‘rescues’ reported in West Bengal. From 2009 through 2011, 2195 women and girls were screened by SRBs: 170 (7.7%) minors and 45 (2.1%) unwilling adult women were assisted and followed up. The remaining 90.2% received counselling, health care and the option to join savings schemes and other community programmes designed to reduce sex worker vulnerability. Between 1992 and 2011 the proportion of minors in sex work in Sonagachi declined from 25 to 2%.

Conclusions With its universal surveillance of sex workers entering the profession, attention to rapid and confidential intervention and case management, and primary prevention of trafficking—including microcredit and educational programmes for children of sex workers—the SRB approach stands as a new model of success in anti-trafficking work.

Suzanne Jenkins, “Beyond gender: an examination of exploitation in sex work”. PhD dissertation, Keele University, 2009.


Although there are conflicting perspectives on prostitution in the feminist literature, female prostitutes are usually regarded as victims of gender-specific exploitation, either in the form of sexual-domination or socio-economic-inequality. Male prostitution has usually been excluded from feminist analyses on the basis that it is thought to be less exploitative than female prostitution. In this thesis, I expand upon feminist theories of gendered exploitation by comparing the experiences of male, female and transgendered escort sex-workers. Using a qualitative approach, my research explores whether prostitution is inherently exploitative and what conditions create and exacerbate sex-workers’ vulnerability to victimisation, including the influence of current legal approaches to prostitution.

My findings indicate that although neither male nor female sex-workers experience high levels of exploitation, female escorts are more vulnerable to particular types of victimisation; however, rather than reflecting existing feminist theories of prostitution, this is not, typically, the result of either sexual-or economic-oppression. Instead, I argue that exploitation largely results from the social stigma attached to prostitution, and that this is exacerbated by an overemphasis on discourses of victimhood in feminist perspectives on, and legal approaches to, commercial-sex. By arguing that women only choose sex-work in the face of sexual or economic disadvantage, the notion that women are intrinsically susceptible to exploitation is reinforced. This denies women agency, and puts them in a disadvantaged position from which to negotiate their working lives. In particular, because female sex-workers are more likely to be dependent upon third-parties to facilitate their work, women are at greater risk of exploitation. I argue that exploitation could be effectively reduced by decriminalising and regulating sex industry organisers so that sex-workers can enter into communal working relationships. Given feminism‟s aim of empowering women, I argues that a more constructive feminist approach would be to move away from a gender-specific notion of exploitation to one which recognises the reality that women can, and sometimes do choose to sell sexual services, and that their right to do so should not be dependent upon notions of victimhood.

Full text available here.