Monthly Archives: March 2014

Alison Arnot, “Legalisation of the sex industry in the State of Victoria, Australia: the impact of prostitution law reform on the working and private lives of women in the legal Victorian sex industry” (2002) MA Thesis, University of Melbourne Department of Criminology.

Full text available here.


In 1984 the State Parliament of Victoria began the process of legalising sectors of the Victorian sex industry. Reforming legislation was enacted in 1984, 1986 and 1994. To date there has been no research assessing the changes to the industry that have occurred as a result of the legalisation process, and in particular, the effect it has had on the lives of the women working in the industry.

This research has examined the impact of sex industry law reform on the working and private lives of women in the Victorian sex industry. Interviews were conducted with twenty women, nine of whom had worked in the industry prior to legalisation. All but four of the interviewees had experienced work in the industry before and after reforms.

A number of significant findings were made. Since legalisation brothels have become cleaner and physical surroundings have been improved. However, the owners and managers of industry businesses have increased their level of control over workers by determining services to be offered, fees to be charged and clothes to be worn.

While brothel workers have always felt safe in their workplaces, escort workers now feel safer. The main reason given for this is that the work is now legal and the specific safety regulations contained within the legislation was thought to be of little consequence.

Escort workers now feel that they have more control over the client, whereas brothel workers have always felt a level of control in the relationship. This feeling of control did not however, result from a willingness to report crimes perpetrated by clients against the women. Similarly workers were largely unwilling to report the unethical or illegal behaviour of owners or managers of sex industry businesses. It is argued that legalisation does not increase women’s access to the justice system.

Legalisation has created a sex industry where the illegal industry operates alongside the legal industry. This part of the industry includes illegal brothels and individual women working outside of the requirements for solo operators included in the Prostitution Control Act.

Sex industry employment has a significant impact on women’s private lives, and it would appear the changing legal structure surrounding the sex industry, has had little or no effect on this. Interviewees reported the hardest thing about working in the industry was having to hide their profession from those closest to them. This tendency stemmed from the women’s perceptions that society, while it had become somewhat more accepting of the industry as a whole, still did not approve of sex work. The women believed that being open about their work could impact on their families, their jobs outside of the industry, their intimate relationships, and their friendships.

This research shows that the Victorian system of law reform and its associated politics have served to reinforce negative views of the sex industry. It is argued that it is not enough to make sex work a legal occupation. Both legislators and the general public need to consider it a legitimate occupation of choice.

Julia O’Connell Davidson and Bridget Anderson, “The Market for Migrant Domestic and Sex Workers: Research Report” (2006) Economic and Social Research Council, Reference No. R000239794


The study explored attitudes towards, and experience of, the markets for migrant domestic and sex workers in the UK and Spain through a combination of interview and survey research. The interviews were structured around a standard set of topics, and examined respondents’ attitudes towards gender, race/ethnicity, age, and domestic work/commercial sex. It aimed to examine continuities and discontinuities between domestic work and sex work, paying particular attention to the role of the social/cultural imagination in constructing a market for migrant workers and questions about how this demand relates to broader socially tolerated attitudes towards race, gender, age and sexuality, and to make a contribution to current theorizing on gender, nationality, global interdependence, age, racial/ethnic identities and the complex intersections among these systems.

Full text available here.

From the “Introduction” (freely accessible here):

“Prostitution is an area that is an emotional hotbed for anyone attempting to theorize and conceptualize “agency.” Is selling one’s body a form of empowerment? Agency? What is consent? How can consent be conceptualized without a specific and individualized understanding of sovereignty and certainly how can it be legislated by Western organized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) when it cannot even be agreed upon between states in the United States? Or is it part of an ongoing dynamic of violence and abuse? An attempt at mastery? Where is desire in this mix? Does it matter?”

Table of Contents

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Kingston, S. and Thomas, T. (2014), The Police, Sex Work, and Section 14 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice. doi: 10.1111/hojo.12060


This article considers the origins and aims of Section 14 of the Policing and
Crime Act 2009 and the offence of paying for the sexual services of a prostitute who has
been subject to exploitative conduct; this offence is one of ‘strict liability’. Section 14 was
implemented on 1 April 2010 and using the Freedom of Information Act 2000 the
authors have attempted to show the number of times Section 14 has been used by the police
in England and Wales since the Act became law; how the Act has been used and the
outcome of the use of this section.

Petra de Vries, From Slave to Sex Worker.Feminist Debates and Prostitution Politics in the Netherlands, 1880–2000, in: L’Homme, 2010. 


Today’s approach to prostitution in the Netherlands reflects the currency of the concept of “agency” advocated by feminists since the 1980s. Yet while defining prostitution as “sex work” implies entitlements, it also glosses over gendered inequality, writes Petra de Vries. Can the abolitionist arguments of the nineteenth century provide the basis for an alternative?

Full article available here. 

Frances M. Shaver, “Sex Work Research: Methodological and Ethical Challenges” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, March 2005, vol. 20 no. 3, pp. 296-319


The challenges involved in the design of ethical, nonexploitative research projects with sex workers or any other marginalized population are significant. First, the size and boundaries of the population are unknown, making it extremely difficult to get a representative sample. Second, because membership in hidden populations often involves stigmatized or illegal behavior, concerns regarding privacy and confidentiality are paramount and difficult to resolve. In addition, they often result in challenges to the validity of the data. Third, in spite of evidence to the contrary, associations between sex work and victimization are still strong, dichotomies remain prevalent, and sex workers are often represented as a homogeneous population. Drawing on three research projects in which the author has been involved—all grounded in a sex-as-work approach—as well as the work of others, this article provides several strategies for overcoming these challenges. Clear guidelines for ethical, nonexploitive methodologies are embedded in the solutions provided.

Full text available here.

Chi Mgbako and Laura A. Smith, Sex Work and Human Rights in Africa, 33 Fordham Int’l L.J. 1178 (2011). 
Available at:


This Article serves as the first law review essay to engage the feminist debates regarding sex work and human rights in the African context. This Article surveys “antiprostitution” and “pro-sex-worker” feminist arguments and activities in the sub-Saharan Africa; explores the debate surrounding the legal frameworks of legalization, decriminalization, prohibition, and abolition of prostitution in a number of African countries including Senegal, where prostitution is legal and regulated, and South Africa where prostitution remains illegal despite civil society advocacy for decriminalization; and calls for the empowerment of African sex workers by arguing for a human rights-based transformation in African governments’ legal and policy posture towards sex work. Part I of this Article explores both the feminist arguments against prostitution and in favor of sex workers’ rights. Part II traces the development of the distinction between forced and unforced prostitution in international law and argues that the international human rights system creates a foundation for the realization of sex workers’ rights in Africa. Part III explores the debates regarding the criminalization of prostitution in a number of African countries and includes case studies from Senegal and South Africa.

Stewart, Ann. 2014. “Legal Constructions of Body Work.” Feminists@law 4 (1) (February 22).


This chapter explores the way in which two examples of body work – the labour involved in caring for the vulnerable elderly and in providing commercial sex – are regulated. It highlights the challenges that body work presents for labour law and exposes the wider conceptual limitations that this area of law faces in a consumer based market economy in which the boundaries between production and social reproduction are being reconstituted.

Full Text: PDF

Stephanie Sexton, “Over the Parapet: a short study into the needs and aspirations of sex workers in Edinburgh” (Scot-pep, July 2009).

Why ‘Over the Parapet’?

All those who work with people be that in the voluntary or public sectors are very familiar with the terms user involvement or stakeholder engagement. User involvement in service planning and in service scrutiny is a key theme in Government thinking.

We need to find ways to hear the voices of those who use services so that we are able to meet their needs and can respond positively to their aspirations. We need to understand what we are doing right, what we could do better, and what we need to change fundamentally.

This requires us to make space for those who use services to say what they really think, ‘rather than tell us what they think we want to hear’; and to take time to understand the subtlety or complexity of the challenges service users face in their daily lives – directly and indirectly related to their presenting issue.

Those who use our services often feel powerless to affect change. Some feel anxiety that to challenge will be construed as negative criticism and may affect the way services are provided in the future.

Sex workers operate in an environment, which is hostile; rarely valued for who they are; they experience explicit and implicit messages that reduce them to people who represent parts of society that we would rather keep hidden or lose altogether. The implicit message is for them to keep hidden or stop work altogether.

Against this backdrop, women are loath to put their head above the parapet, to talk directly about their needs and aspirations; to talk about their concerns about services and policing; about friendship and family; or about their children.

This study has been commissioned as a step towards that being achieved. It is a first step, but a courageous one. The expectation is that no one cares, will take notice, or will say ‘we are doing all this already’, or say ‘do something else’. We hope that this attempt to stand up and make themselves vulnerable so that others can hear their voices will be respected – as they should be respected, and that the issues and ideas expressed will be considered with a willingness to take steps to meet their overriding need – that to be treated with dignity and respect.