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Author Archives: sexworkresearch

Hoefinger, Heidi, Jennifer Musto, PG Macioti, Anne E Fehrenbacher, Nicola Mai, Calum Bennachie, Calogero Giametta (2020) Community-Based Responses to Negative Health Impacts of Sexual Humanitarian Anti-Trafficking Policies and the Criminalization of Sex Work and Migration in the US, Social Sciences, Special Issue: Sex Work, Gender Justice and the Law, 2020, 9(1), 1-30,  https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9010001

Abstract

System‐involvement resulting from anti‐trafficking interventions and the criminalization of sex work and migration results in negative health impacts on sex workers, migrants, and people with trafficking experiences. Due to their stigmatized status, sex workers and people with trafficking experiences often struggle to access affordable, unbiased, and supportive health care. This paper will use thematic analysis of qualitative data from in‐depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork with 50 migrant sex workers and trafficked persons, as well as 20 key informants from legal and social services, in New York and Los Angeles. It will highlight the work of trans‐specific and sex worker–led initiatives that are internally addressing gaps in health care and the negative health consequences that result from sexual humanitarian anti‐trafficking interventions that include policing, arrest, court‐involvement, court‐mandated social services, incarceration, and immigration detention. Our analysis focuses on the impact of the criminalization on sex workers and their experiences with sexual humanitarian efforts intended to protect and control them. We argue that these grassroots community‐based efforts are a survival‐oriented reaction to the harms of criminalization and a response to vulnerabilities left unattended by mainstream sexual humanitarian approaches to protection and service provision that frame sex work itself as the problem. Peer‐to‐peer interventions such as these create solidarity and resiliency within marginalized communities, which act as protective buffers against institutionalized systemic violence and the resulting negative health outcomes. Our results suggest that broader public health support and funding for community‐led health initiatives are needed to reduce barriers to health care resulting from stigma, criminalization, and ineffective anti‐trafficking and humanitarian efforts. We conclude that the decriminalization of sex work and the reform of institutional practices in the US are urgently needed to reduce the overall negative health outcomes of system‐ involvement.

Wattis, Louise. ‘Revisiting the Yorkshire Ripper Murders: Interrogating Gender Violence, Sex Work, and Justice’. Feminist Criminology 12, no. 1 (1 January 2017): 3–21. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557085115602960.

Abstract

Between 1975 and 1980, 13 women, 7 of whom were sex workers, were murdered in the North of England. Aside from the femicide itself, the case was infamous for police failings, misogyny, and victim blaming. The article begins with a discussion of the serial murder of women as a gendered structural phenomenon within the wider context of violence, gender, and arbitrary justice. In support of this, the article revisits the above case to interrogate police reform in England and Wales in the wake of the murders, arguing that despite procedural reform, gendered cultural practices continue to shape justice outcomes for victims of gender violence. In addition, changes to prostitution policy are assessed to highlight how the historical and ongoing Othering and criminalization of street sex workers perpetuates the victimization of this marginalized group of women.

Editorial note: Peter Sutcliffe aka “the Yorkshire Ripper” died (allegendly from Covid-19) last week.
See the report in the Guardian and a historical statement by the English Collective of Prostitutes (1981) “Prostitutes are innocent ok!


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Hurren, Elizabeth. ‘Dissecting Jack-the-Ripper: An Anatomy of Murder in the Metropolis’. Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies 20, no. 2 (2016): 5–30 (URL: https://journals.openedition.org/chs/1667).

Abstract

Jack-the-Ripper has been an historical prism for international studies of crime, history and societies. This article re-examines the infamous violent homicides from a new medical perspective. In a cold case review, original evidence of a secret trade in the dead poor is presented, neglected in crime historiography. Trafficking in bodies and body parts to teach human anatomy to medical students was the norm in the East End of London in 1888. The business of anatomy – peopled by body dealers and their accomplices – had the medical infrastructure to provide a deadly disguise for the serial killings. Those that fell from relative to absolute poverty, in death, supplied dissection tables in major teaching hospitals across London. Its social wallpaper could conceivably have camouflaged homicide in the Metropolis.

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Ślęzak, Izabela. 2020. “An Ethnographic Analysis of Escort Services in Poland: An Interactionist Approach.” Qualitative Sociology Review 16(4):122-144. Retrieved 11/2020 (URL: http://www.qualitativesociologyreview.org/ENG/archive_eng.php). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18778/1733-8077.16.4.08

Abstract

Abstract: In the Polish literature on the subject, prostitution is analyzed from various theoretical perspectives, but, first of all, from the perspective of social pathology. This approach makes the researchers focus mainly on the social maladjustment of women providing sex services and the reasons for their violation of the normative order. In my ethnographic research conducted in escort agencies in Poland, I was willing to go beyond this narrow outlook. I have adapted an interactionist perspective to analyze the escort agencies as organizations where intense interactions between employees, as well as employees and clients, take place, the sex work process is organized, and the meanings of prostitution are negotiated. I conducted the analysis according to the procedures of the grounded theory methodology. It allowed me to see and describe such processes as: (re)defining the situation of providing sex services from vice to work, sex work as a collective action, performing sex work, secondary socialization for sex work. The adaption of an interactionist perspective opens some new directions for analysis, which could help to understand the phenomenon of women getting involved in and continuing to provide sex services for a long time.

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Rachok, Dafna. ‘Honesty and Economy on a Highway: Entanglements of Gift, Money, and Affection in the Narratives of Ukrainian Sex Workers’. Economic Anthropology, Early View. https://doi.org/10.1002/sea2.12187.

Abstract

Sex work provides a particularly good example to consider the relationships of money, authenticity, and intimacy. Many scholars who research intimacy point to the fact that seeing sex work as an exchange of money (or goods) for sex is a simplistic and reductive approach. Building on the existing research that complicates the idea of sex work as an emotionally detached sex‐for‐money transaction, this article looks at the coexistence of references to gift exchange, informal economy, and service economy in the narratives of street sex workers from the cities of Kropyvnyts’kyi and Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine. Focusing on sex workers’ attempts at discursive legitimization of sex work and on the narratives of their relationships with clients, I argue that the market rhetoric and the gift economy are not incommensurable for my participants. I show that though sex workers’ local “workplace ethic” is permeated with references to competition and productivity, they still don’t see sex work as qualitatively different from other forms of intimacy and don’t treat their clients as mere customers because of multiple emotional and affectionate attachments that exist between them. I conclude by considering the coexistence of various economic narratives in relation to the economic self.

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Goyal, Yugank. ‘Responsibilization through Regulatory Intermediaries in Informal Markets: Examining the Governance of Prostitution in India’. Regulation & Governance, Early View. https://doi.org/10.1111/rego.12298.

Abstract

“Independent” sex work outside red light areas in big cities in developing countries is an understudied phenomenon. Through a survey of independent sex workers in Delhi, India, this paper sheds light on the governance of independent prostitution. It shows that in the sex work industry, which is informal in nature and faces a complex legal architecture, regulatory intermediaries (RIs) drive both regulation and responsibilization strategies. On behalf of the state, the police act as regulatory intermediaries, implementing hierarchical regulation. In red light areas, sex workers’ collectives and solidarity networks operate as RIs on behalf of workers. But in independent sex work, it is pimps who act as intermediaries for workers, driving their responsibilization strategies. Independent sex workers take up the services of pimps even though they charge hefty fees, in large part because pimps can negotiate their protection from the police. I examine several characteristics of the relationships between prostitutes, pimps, clients, and the police, and refine the RIT model of regulatory intermediaries (Abbott et al. 2017) in the context of prostitution in a developing country.

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Leser, Julia. ‘On the Sensory Policing of Vices:  Morality at Work in a German Vice Squad’. Journal of Extreme Anthropology 4, no. 1 (7 March 2020): 22–44. https://doi.org/10.5617/jea.7358.

Abstract

This paper explores the policing of vices and offers a critical inquiry into the affective politics of policing practices seen through police and state ethnography, political anthropology, and the ‘affective turn’ in social and cultural theory. It shows how the moral worlds of policing sex work and performing raids in the red-light ‘milieu’ are constituted in the making of boundaries through visual, olfactory, somatosensory, and auditory sensations, which can be understood as normative performances in the realm of morality. Police officers do not engage in a neutral gaze but transform the sensuous into sensations that enact these normative distinctions between the ‘normal’ and the ‘abnormal’ – the morally questionable red-light ‘milieu.’ These practices can be read in regard to a morality that is conveyed in and through the officers’ sensational performances in an observingly affective and somatic manner. Morality not simply is but is being done—and performing affects and sensations plays a significant role in the making of moral worlds in the realm of policing. Raiding the red-light ‘milieu’ is a performance on disorder and order, on what is normal and what is not, and thus a deeply political practice that reveals how order- and boundary-making operates through basic sensations and feelings, of the sensuous, the aesthetic, and the somatic.

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Hock, Stefan. 2019. ‘To Bring About a “Moral of Renewal”: The Deportation of Sex Workers in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War’. Journal of the History of Sexuality 28 (3): 457–82.

In January 1915 European consuls in Istanbul gave the city’s police commissioner, Osman Bedri Bey, a list of names of known procurers. The accused traffickers included Russian, Argentinian, Romanian, American, Austrian, French, British, and Greek citizens. All but one of them were deported; 151 were banished from the country, 11 were sent to Sivas, and 5 were sent to Kayseri, cities in the interior of Anatolia that were far removed from the capital.1 Bedri quickly rose through the ranks of Ottoman civil officialdom as he was a close friend of Talaat, the powerful interior minister who became grand vizier in 1917. Read more…

Rachok, Dafna. 2019. ‘“Nothing about Us without Us”: Sex Workers’ Informal Political Practices in Ukraine’. Anthropologica 61 (2): 261–69.

Abstract

How do vulnerable populations engage with politics? And what does politics mean to them? Building on four months of ethnographic fieldwork and 15 semistructured interviews with sex workers in Kropyvnyts’kyi, Ukraine, I show how informal political practices are employed by marginalised groups like sex workers to promote their agenda of the normalisation of sex work. Examining sex workers’ activism in Ukraine through empowerment strategies and resistance politics, I enquire about formal and informal political strategies that sex workers resort to, how these strategies are used, and whether informal political practices can lead to the community’s empowerment. With a focus primarily on street sex workers who are engaged in community organisation, I show how a controversial topic such as sex can be utilised by sex workers to attract attention to their marginalised situation and politicise their activism. Complicating the discussion of politics and political participation by viewing it through the lens of feminist anthropology, this paper attempts to contribute to the discussion about women’s empowerment and to expand the category of “political practice” and “political activism.” This paper concludes that Kropyvnyts’kyi sex workers often resort to small-scale political tactics in order to probe the limits of political possibility.

Tyburczy, Jennifer. 2019. ‘Sex Trafficking Talk: Rosi Orozco and the Neoliberal Narrative of Empathy in Post-NAFTA Mexico’. Feminist Formations 31 (3): 95–117.https://muse.jhu.edu/article/748843

Abstract

This article is a case study that draws from three interrelated artifacts from research conducted in Mexico City: an interview with anti-sex trafficking activist Rosi Orozco, the visual rhetoric of iEmpathize, a transnational organization affiliated with the Orozco anti-trafficking network, and Orozco’s 2011 book, Del Cielo al Infierno en un Día. I analyze these artifacts to critique how Orozco, one of the most powerful anti-sex trafficking activists in Mexico City, uses empathy as an affective tool for motivating action. In focusing on these particular artifacts, the objective is to show how empathy can circulate within neoliberal discourses of feeling that are steeped in heteronormative and racialized notions of gender and sexuality. Within sex trafficking discourse in what I refer to as post-NAFTA Mexico, empathy aids in the elision of “prostitution” with “trafficking” and creates visually identifiable “victims” that perpetuate the boom, not just in sex trafficking talk, but in the rescue industry as an economic and cultural force.