Monthly Archives: November 2013

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.

Sharon Pickering and Julie Ha (2013): Hot Pants at the Border Sorting Sex Work from Trafficking, in: British JOurnal of Criminology, Online First.


The role of borders in managing sex work is a valuable site for analysing the relationship between criminal justice and migration administration functions. For the purposes of this article, we are concerned with how generalized concerns around trafficking manifest in specific interactions between immigration officials and women travellers. To this end, this article contributes to a greater understanding of the micro-politics of border control and the various contradictions at work in the everyday performance of the border. It uses an intersectional analysis of the decision making of immigration officers at the border to understand how social differences become conflated with risk, how different social locations amplify what is read as risky sexuality and how sexuality is constructed in migration. What the interviews in our research have demonstrated is that, while the border is a poor site for identifying cases of trafficking into the sex industry, it is a site of significant social sorting where various intersections of intelligence-led profiling and everyday stereotyping of women, sex work and vulnerability play out.


Read More

Dewey, Susan (2012): The Feminized Labor of Sex Work – Two Decades of Feminist Historical and Ethnographic Research, in: Labor 9(2); pp. 113-132.

Full article available here. 

Sex work, broadly defined as the exchange of sexual intimacy for something of value, has become a popular subject of academic interrogation in the past two decades. Scholarly studies on the subject frequently document the lives of marginalized individuals who employ the strategic use of sex or sexualized attention as a means to survive or, less frequently, to attain social mobility. While it is difficult to make generalizations about the nuanced and individualized nature of transactional sex, the literature on the subject has surmounted this difficulty by alternately embracing and contesting major trends in feminist scholarship itself. ….