Monthly Archives: May 2016

Lowthers, Megan, “Sexual-Economic Entanglement: A Feminist Ethnography of Migrant Sex Work Spaces in Kenya” (2015). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. Paper 3423.


The recent anti-trafficking fervour as well as the moral panic surrounding prostitution has given rise to large gaps within migrant sex work research, especially in Africa. Despite this, sexual commerce remains a viable economic activity for many women in East Africa, a region where variable migration patterns are central to everyday social, cultural, and economic life. Framed by anthropology, feminist geography, and postcolonial theory, this research examines migrant female sex workers’ everyday experiences across time, space, place, and scale from one ethnographic location in Naivasha, Kenya. In order to explore how different migration patterns and types of sexual-economic exchange are entangled, qualitative research was conducted among 110 migrant female sex workers and 15 community representatives. Emphasizing the public relevance of both sexual commerce and everyday migration, African literary tools also frame the migration stories of female sex workers originating from, arriving to, or transiting through Naivasha. This research reveals how street level sex work is reproduced amidst the current global political economy at migrant spaces including an IDP camp, flower farms, along East African highways, and through mobile phone technology. This research also contributes to a better understanding of the often excluded female sex worker – the displaced, migrant, or sex worker in transit – as a complete, engendered person by recognizing her complex lived realities, relationships, and risks. And while migration is predominantly associated with increased vulnerabilities, this research further demonstrates how different types of sexual-economic exchange through different migration patterns variously entangle victimhood and empowerment in complex ways. These findings are especially significant for interdisciplinary academic studies as well as policy and programming addressing sex worker migration in Africa.

Public URL:

Choo, Hae Yeon. “Selling Fantasies of Rescue: Intimate Labor, Filipina Migrant Hostesses, and US GIs in a Shifting Global Order.” positions: east asia cultures critique 24.1 (2016): 179–203.

Based on ethnographic research in an US military camp town in South Korea, this article examines camp town sexual commerce as a manifestation of shifting global hierarchies amid Asia’s economic ascendance and the decline of US hegemony. Challenging the dichotomous constructions of US GIs as powerful agents and of migrant club hostesses as trafficked victims, the author highlights their shared conditions of “indentured mobility” as constrained subjects bound by migrant labor contracts in their quest for mobility. Revisiting the persisting power asymmetry between US GIs and migrant hostesses, the author’s ethnography reveals the ways in which power differentials are deployed by hostesses and club owners as a resource to incite the discourse of benevolence and rescue that attracts US GI customers to the clubs. By engaging the US military camp town as a space of migrant encounter, this article illuminates how global geopolitics, uneven capitalist development, and transnational migration are entangled with intimacy, power, and emotions to shape intimate labor at a critical juncture of the changing global order.


Can there be such a thing as feminist pornography? Many still say no. Echoing decades of anti-pornography feminist literature, Gail Dines told the Daily Beast in 2012 that “anyone willing to feed off women’s bodies and use them as raw materials to make a profit has no right to call themselves feminists.” But many feminists, including those who make porn, disagree. Despite decades of efforts to suppress it, porn is reaching larger audiences than ever. Making porn more politically progressive for those who consume it and making sets safer for performers are critical issues for feminist intervention—and feminist pornographers have chosen to take on both.


In Vancouver, Canada, there has been a continuous shift in the policing of sex work away from arresting sex workers, which led to the implementation of a policing strategy that explicitly prioritised the safety of sex workers and continued to target sex workers’ clients. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 26 cisgender and five transgender women street-based sex workers about their working conditions. Data were analysed thematically and by drawing on concepts of structural stigma and vulnerability. Our results indicated that despite police rhetoric of prioritising the safety of sex workers, participants were denied their citizenship rights for police protection by virtue of their ‘risky’ occupation and were thus responsiblised for sex work related violence. Our findings further suggest that sex workers’ interactions with neighbourhood residents were predominantly shaped by a discourse of sex workers as a ‘risky’ presence in the urban landscape and police took swift action in removing sex workers in the case of complaints. This study highlights that intersecting regimes of stigmatisation and criminalisation continued to undermine sex workers citizenship rights to police protection and legal recourse and perpetuated labour conditions that render sex workers at increased risk for violence and poor health.

Stéphanie Wahab and Gillian Abel, “The Prostitution Reform Act (2003) and Social Work in Aotearoa/New Zealand” Affilia 0886109916647764, first published on May 11, 2016 doi:10.1177/0886109916647764

Social work practice with sex workers in New Zealand occurs within a context of decriminalization since the passing of the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) in 2003. This article presents the findings of a qualitative study focused on social workers’ perceptions of sex work/ers, the PRA, and its influence on practice with individuals in the sex industry. The findings suggest that social workers hold nuanced perspectives on sex work. While decriminalization creates opportunities that support social work practice with sex workers, challenges to antioppressive, critical social work remain, even within the context of decriminalization.

In the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the Brazilian government engaged in a militarized campaign to clean up favelas, blighted areas, and red-light districts so that it could “develop” them. Based on ethnographic work in Rio de Janeiro, London, and Cape Town, this article argues that there is a pattern in host cities of such events in which neoliberal agents, state forces, and nongovernmental organizations use discourses of feminism and human rights—especially unfounded fears about a link between sex trafficking and sports—to enact such changes regardless of the political economic conditions or systems of governance. By destroying safe and legal venues for sex work, these actors have created the very exploitation they purport to prevent. The article also links these actions to US foreign policy mandates and a broader shift in governmentality in Brazil predicated on performing a commitment to sexual diversity, including promoting gay rights and tourism, and advancing liberal notions of sexual progress that, in actuality, marginalize more vulnerable sexual populations.