Monthly Archives: June 2014


This paper argues that potential cases of oppression, such as sex trafficking, can sometimes comprise autonomous choices by the trafficked individuals. This issue still divides radical from liberal feminists, with the former wanting to ‘rescue’ the ‘victims’ and the latter insisting that there might be good reasons for ‘hiding from the rescuers.’ This article presents new arguments for the liberal approach and raises two demands: first, help organizations should be run by affected women and be open-minded about whether or not the trafficked individuals should remain in the sex industry. Second, the career choices of trafficked individuals should be expanded by the introduction of an opportunity-extending right to asylum.


The prevalence and factors associated with being paid and paying for sex were explored in an online sample of Australian gay men. Sexual risk behavior among male sex workers and their clients was mainly related to being more sexually adventurous in general rather than male-to-male sex work specifically.


Based upon 50 interviews that took place over the course of 3 years of ethnographic research with 100 female street-based sex workers in Denver, Colorado, the tenth largest city in the United States, this article explores the cultural ethos informing women’s interactions with police and the tools women use to navigate their struggles with homelessness, addiction, and the everyday violence of the street. It identifies three beliefs about patrol officers that reflect the complexities of women’s interactions with police: arrest is indiscriminate in a “known prostitution area,” arrest avoidance strategies necessitate interpreting behavioral cues while showing respect to officers and forming affective bonds with potential clients, and officers may abuse their authority. This belief system is part of an environment in which women’s stigmatized behaviors are highly visible and constitute an increased risk of negative police encounters. Changes to policing practices remain unlikely while women’s sex work and drug use activities remain criminalized. Findings presented support arguments for decriminalizing prostitution as well as the implementation of harm reduction-oriented social policy, including services that inform women about their rights in the criminal justice system while facilitating awareness of how their individual lives intersect with gender, class, and racial bias in a sociolegal system that stigmatizes and criminalizes their choices.

Sex Workers, Empowerment and Poverty Alleviation in Ethiopia

Overs, C.
IDS Evidence Report 80
Publisher IDS
Link to the publication

This case study explores economic, legal and social issues that affect sex workers, with a particular focus on the role of poverty in sex workers’ lives and the potential for poverty alleviation policies and programmes to help lift as many sex workers as possible out of poverty in order to reduce the exploitation, illness and violence associated with their work.

In surveys, sex workers overwhelmingly indicate they would like another occupation, particularly in very poor countries. This has been taken to mean that relieving the poverty of individual sex workers will lead them to stop or reduce sex work. On this analysis, reduced poverty will mean that the number of women entering the sex industry, or staying in it, will be reduced and/or that the harm associated with sex work would be diminished because the numbers of partners or of unprotected sexual contacts would reduce. However, the validity of this logic and the benefits, costs and consequences (intended and unintended) of poverty alleviation in the context of sex work have not been tested or even well documented.

Scott, John. 2003. “A Prostitute’s Progress: Male Prostitution in Scientific Discourse.” Social Semiotics 13 (2): 179–199. doi:10.1080/1035033032000152606.
This paper examines discourses of male prostitution through an analysis of scientific texts. A contrast is drawn between nineteenth-century understandings of male prostitution and twentieth-century accounts of male prostitution. In contrast to female prostitution, male prostitution was not regarded as a significant social problem throughout the nineteenth century, despite its close association with gender deviation and social disorder. Changing conceptions of sexuality, linked with the emergence of the ‘adolescent’, drew scientific attention to male prostitution during the 1940s and 1950s. Research suggested that male prostitution was a problem associated with the development of sexual identity. Through the application of scientific techniques, which tagged and differentiated male prostitute populations, a language developed about male prostitution that allowed for normative assessments and judgements to be made concerning particular classes of male prostitute. The paper highlights how a broad distinction emerged between public prostitutes, regarded as heterosexual/masculine, and private prostitutes, regarded as homosexual/effeminate. This distinction altered the way in which male prostitution was understood and governed, allowing for male prostitution to be constituted as a public health concern.
Ham, Julie; Gerard, Alison: Strategic in/visibility: Does agency make sex workers invisible?, in: Criminology and Criminal Justice 14 (3), Juli 2014, S. 298–313.


This article examines the links between in/visibility, agency and mobility through the narratives of 55 predominantly indoor sex workers interviewed in Melbourne, Australia, where state government regulations permit some forms of sex work under a licensing framework. This article explores the tensions around the requirement for visibility in the regulation of sex work, the utility of ‘strategic’ invisibility in the lived realities of sex work and the discursive ‘invisibilizing’ of sex workers’ agency in anti-prostitution discourses. For the workers we interviewed, ‘strategic invisibility’ was an agentic strategy that prevented stigma and protected social, economic and geographical mobility within and outside the sex industry. In Melbourne, workers’ careful management of their ‘invisibility’ as sex workers contrasted with the state’s harm minimization framework that insists on sex workers’ visibility within healthcare and licensing systems. This article draws on empirical data to suggest that regulation through licensing can both alleviate and contribute to vulnerabilizing contexts of sex work, providing useful lessons to those considering a similar system of regulation.

Robertson, Angela M.; Syvertsen, Jennifer L.; Amaro, Hortensia; u. a.: Can’t Buy My Love: A Typology of Female Sex Workers’ Commercial Relationships in the Mexico–U.S. Border Region, in: Journal of Sex Research 51 (6), 2014, S. 711–720.
Female sex workers (FSWs) experience elevated risk for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) through unprotected sex with male clients, yet the complexity of these commercial relationships remains understudied. From 2010 to 2011, we explored FSWs’ conceptualizations of various client types and related risk behavior patterns using semistructured interviews with 46 FSWs in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where FSWs’ HIV/STI prevalence is increasing. Our grounded theory analysis identified four types of commercial relationships: nonregular clients, regular clients and friends, clients who “fell in love” with FSWs, and long-term financial providers who often originated from the United States. As commercial relationships developed, clients’ social and emotional connections to FSWs increased, rendering condom negotiation and maintaining professional boundaries more difficult. Drug abuse and poverty also influenced behaviors, particularly in Ciudad Juárez, where lucrative U.S. clients were increasingly scarce. While struggling to cultivate dependable relationships in a setting marked by historical sex tourism from a wealthier country, some FSWs ceased negotiating condom use. We discuss the need for HIV/STI research and prevention interventions to recognize the complexity within FSWs’ commercial relationships and how behaviors (e.g., condom use) evolve as relationships develop through processes that are influenced by local sociopolitical contexts and binational income inequality.


Objectives To explore how criminalisation and policing of sex buyers (clients) rather than sex workers shapes sex workers’ working conditions and sexual transactions including risk of violence and HIV/sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Design Qualitative and ethnographic study triangulated with sex work-related violence prevalence data and publicly available police statistics.

Setting Vancouver, Canada, provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the impact of policies that criminalise clients as the local police department adopted a sex work enforcement policy in January 2013 that prioritises sex workers’ safety over arrest, while continuing to target clients.

Participants 26 cisgender and 5 transgender women who were street-based sex workers (n=31) participated in semistructured interviews about their working conditions. All had exchanged sex for money in the previous 30 days in Vancouver.

Outcome measures Thematic analysis of interview transcripts and ethnographic field notes focused on how police enforcement of clients shaped sex workers’ working conditions and sexual transactions, including risk of violence and HIV/STIs, over an 11-month period postpolicy implementation (January–November 2013).

Results Sex workers’ narratives and ethnographic observations indicated that while police sustained a high level of visibility, they eased charging or arresting sex workers and showed increased concern for their safety. However, participants’ accounts and police statistics indicated continued police enforcement of clients. This profoundly impacted the safety strategies sex workers employed. Sex workers continued to mistrust police, had to rush screening clients and were displaced to outlying areas with increased risks of violence, including being forced to engage in unprotected sex.

Conclusions These findings suggest that criminalisation and policing strategies that target clients reproduce the harms created by the criminalisation of sex work, in particular, vulnerability to violence and HIV/STIs. The current findings support decriminalisation of sex work to ensure work conditions that support the health and safety of sex workers in Canada and globally.

Full article available here. 

Rodríguez García, Magaly: The League of Nations and the Moral Recruitment of Women, in: International Review of Social History 57, 2012, S. 97–128.


This article analyses the debate on trafficking and policies to combat the recruitment of persons for commercial sex within the Advisory Committee on the Traffic in Women and Children of the League of Nations. Its main argument is that the Committee’s governmental and non-governmental representatives engaged in what might be called a “moral recruitment of women”. This form of recruitment had a double purpose: to protect females from prostitution through the provision of “good employment”, and to repress intermediaries of prostitution by means of criminalization. Three elements of the Committee’s internal debates and concrete actions will receive special attention. Firstly, the ideological framework (feminism, social purity, humanitarianism, abolitionism, regulationism, and/or class); secondly, the gender dynamics (differences of opinion between the Committee’s male and female representatives); and thirdly the degree of gendering (construction or reinforcement of gender roles and relations).