Monthly Archives: April 2014

Asa Yttergren *


Sweden is often described in terms of its high level of gender equality, which is associated with its institutionalized welfare. The quite radical official Swedish ambition regarding gender equality is laid down in many public documents. Within this context, prostitution is conceptualized as an extreme expression of gender inequality (see Gunnarsson and Svensson in this issue). The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the official Swedish attitude towards trafficking in persons for sexual purposes (hereafter referred to as trafficking), to place this view in an international context, and also to critically analyze problems that arise when the official Swedish objective of establishing gender equality is confronted with the issue of women who have been trafficked to Sweden.

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Price, Josgua M: “Violence Against Prostitutes and a Re-evaluation of the Counterpublic Sphere” Genders 34, 2001.

[1]   The speech of women who work in prostitution lacks credibility for many people. This is particularly true when they testify about the violence they face. It is often difficult for others to perceive violence against prostitutes as something real. Many women describe this contradiction in which they are caught when they speak as prostitutes. In what spaces can they speak and be understood when they describe the violence they face?

[2]   Women who work in prostitution employ a variety of rhetorical strategies to challenge those contradictions, or in some cases finesse them. I would like to examine whether the category of a ‘counterpublic sphere’ is a useful one to think about battered prostitutes’ speech on violence as political intervention. The term ‘counterpublic’ was coined by critics of Habermas’ category of an explicitly ‘bourgeois’ public sphere. Most theoreticians of the counterpublic see it as a useful communicative sphere for oppressed or excluded groups. (See Landes 1988 on the counterpublic in the salons until and through revolutionary France; Negt and Kluge [1993]{1972} thematize a proletariat counterpublic in which the proletariat’s experience is unsundered. Robbins [1993] sees the notion of a counterpublic as a useful substitute for the culture concept; Muñoz, [1998] draws a portrait of Pedro Zamora, the Latino AIDS activist, as cleverly exploiting the counterpublic potentialities of MTV; also see Fraser 1993; Felski 1989; For literature by prostitutes see for example Delacoste and Alexander 1987; Nagle 1999; Giobbe and Quan 1991; See Sanchez [1997; 1997a] for a good analysis of violence against prostitutes and a critical analysis of liberal jurisprudence). Exploring the usefulness of “counterpublic” will also give me a framework to take up the discursive strategies particular women employ when they are theorizing and trying to communicate their understandings of violence.

Read the full paper here. 


The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science:
Special Issue: Human Trafficking: Recent Empirical Research Edited by: Ronald Weitzer and Sheldon X. Zhang

Table of Contents

New Directions in Research on Human Trafficking

Weitzer, Ronald
The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, May 2014; vol. 653: pp. 6-24

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Stephanie M. Berger, “No End in Sight: Why the End demand Movement is the Wrong Focus for Efforts to Eliminate Human Trafficking” 35 Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 523 (2012).

Full text available here.


There is no dispute that human trafficking is a pervasive problem. The International Labor Organization and the United States State Department estimate that there are more than 12 million people in “forced labor and sexual servitude” worldwide. The State Department estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually. Sex trafficking, specifically, undoubtedly occurs in the United States — all one needs to do is read the local newspaper to find horrific accounts of women and children enslaved and abused in major cities across the country. However, there is no way to know exactly how many trafficking victims in general and sex trafficking victims specifically exist in the United States, in part due to the United States’ problematic conflation of human trafficking and prostitution. This conflation has enshrined the ideals of abolitionist feminists, who believe that prostitution is inherently coercive and abusive, and has refused to acknowledge the pro-work position that views prostitution on a spectrum including both forced and voluntary sex work. Abolitionist ideals have most recently taken hold in End Demand efforts, which focus on criminalizing, punishing, and shaming men who buy sex as purported solutions to both prostitution and human trafficking. This Article takes a pro-work position and aims to demonstrate the potential harms of End Demand policies. It also proposes more productive methods for addressing human trafficking in the United States.


The Swedish criminalization of the purchase of sex aims to abolish prostitution through targeting the demand, while decriminalizing those selling sex in an ostensible effort to protect sex workers – constructed as passive victims of gendered violence – from criminalization. Drawing from authors’ research and that of others, this article discusses the sex purchase law (sexköpslagen), exploring some of its impacts on the lives of sex workers and the dynamics of Swedish prostitution.

We argue that the law has failed in its abolitionist ambition to decrease levels of prostitution, since there are no reliable data demonstrating any overall decline in people selling sex. Furthermore, we argue that the law has resulted in increased dangers in some forms of sex work. Dangers are exacerbated by a lack of harm reduction services, which are seen to conflict with Swedish abolitionism. Moreover, discourses and social constructions informing the sexköpslagen have informed the attitudes of service providers. In addition to specific outcomes of the law, we note evictions of sex workers, problems with immigration authorities, child custody and the police, and briefly discuss these themes. Where Sweden continues to attempt to export the sexköpslagen to other parts of the world, these elements should be carefully considered.

Full article available here. 

Langanke, Harriet, Sven-Axel Månsson, and Michael W. Ross. “Planning for Pleasure: Time Patterns in the Use of Internet Forums of Female Sex Workers’ Clients in Germany.” Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace 8, no. 1 (2014). doi:10.5817/CP2014-1-5.
Full article available here.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the temporal usage of seven sex workers’ clients’ (johns’) German Internet forums. Data covering the years 2008 to 2010 and showing monthly, daily and hourly usage were gained through different log file analysis tools. Three different focus groups discussed the results. One focus group was made up by users of johns’ forums, one group by female sex workers and another one by social workers. Data analysis revealed that johns frequent their web-forums mostly on late Monday afternoons, preferably between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. According to the focus groups’ discussions, this distinct time frame appears to be substantially based on the johns’ intention to plan their activities in commercial sex.
McCarthy, Bill, Cecilia Benoit, and Mikael Jansson. “Sex Work: A Comparative Study.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, n.d., 1–12. Accessed April 1, 2014. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0281-7.


Explanations of adult involvement in sex work typically adopt one of two approaches. One perspective highlights a variety of negative experiences in childhood and adolescence, including physical and sexual abuse, family instability, poverty, associations with “pimps” and other exploiters, homelessness, and drug use. An alternative account recognizes that some of these factors may be involved, but underscores the contribution of more immediate circumstances, such as current economic needs, human capital, and employment opportunities. Prior research offers a limited assessment of these contrasting claims: most studies have focused exclusively on people working in the sex industry and they have not assessed the independent effects of life course variables central to these two perspectives. We add to this literature with an analysis that drew on insights from life course and life-span development theories and considered the contributions of factors from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Our comparative approach examined predictors of employment in sex work relative to two other low-income service or care work occupations: food and beverage serving and barbering and hairstyling. Using data from a study of almost 600 workers from two cities, one in Canada and the other in the United States, we found that both immediate circumstances and negative experiences from early life are related to current sex work involvement: childhood poverty, abuse, and family instability were independently associated with adult sex work, as were limited education and employment experience, adult drug use, and marital status.