Between 1360 and 1460 the Venetian government established a system of legalized prostitution under the supervision of government officials and confined, in theory, to a limited area of the city. The authorities also attempted to concentrate the management of licit brothels in the hands of women, who thereby emerged as the effective entrepreneurs of the sex trade. This article describes the organization of Venetian prostitution in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries and the relations among government officials, brothel-keepers, and prostitutes. It illustrates the mechanisms of debt and credit used in the sex trade, which often kept the prostitutes subservient to the brothel-keepers and to their other creditors. An effort is made to assess the degree to which sex workers might become integrated into local society and to suggest the general trends in Venetian policy toward prostitution into the sixteenth century.
Baker, Carrie N. Racialized Rescue Narratives in Public Discourses on Youth Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the United States. Politics & Gender: 1–28. doi:10.1017/S1743923X18000661.
This article presents an analysis of how activists, politicians, and the media framed youth involvement in the sex trade during the 1970s, the 1990s, and the 2000s in the United States. Across these periods of public concern about the issue, similar framing has recurred that has drawn upon gendered and racialized notions of victimization and perpetration. This frame has successfully brought attention to this issue by exploiting public anxieties at historical moments when social change was threatening white male dominance. Using intersectional feminist theory, I argue that mainstream rhetoric opposing the youth sex trade worked largely within neoliberal logics, ignoring histories of dispossession and structural violence and reinforcing individualistic notions of personhood and normative ideas about subjectivity and agency. As part of the ongoing project of racial and gender formation in US society, this discourse has shored up neoliberal governance, particularly the build-up of the prison industrial complex, and it has obscured the state’s failure to address the myriad social problems that make youth vulnerable to the sex trade.
The last decade has seen an expansion in initiatives promoting the development of special sex services oriented to people with disabilities, which in Europe are increasingly labelled ‘sexual assistance’. These have become the object of political and media attention, and arguably call for a critical analysis incorporating both disability and sex workers’ rights perspectives. Based on an 18-month embedded participant observation, I explore the case of a grassroots organisation which brings together sexual assistants, disabled activists and (potential) clients, and their allies in Switzerland. Opposing ‘therapy’, ‘charity’, and ‘care’ approaches to sexual assistance, members of this organisation work within their own model of ‘ethical’ services. While they place sexual pleasure at the centre of this approach, in practice, they promote forms of self-regulation aimed at limiting the risks of sex services, connected in particular to intimate violence, stigmatisation, sex normativity, and the role of intermediaries. Clearly rooted in a disability rights perspective, this grassroots initiative does not only concern sexual assistance but more largely sex services. In this sense, this study invites us to look at sexual assistance as an interesting space for alliance between sex workers’ rights and the rights of people with disabilities, as a uniquely politicised group of (potential) clients.
In England, sex workers are placed at the edges of the law. How the social and legal status of sex workers impacts on their perception of and interaction with the law in a semi-legal setting has not yet been explored. Drawing on fifty-two qualitative interviews with indoor and outdoor sex workers in England, this study investigates their disposition to the law, legality and the state. The commonalities and discrepancies between the experiences of indoor and outdoor sex workers reveal the influence of the combination of legal framework and social status on sex workers’ legal consciousness. This study finds that, even in a setting of semi-legality, sex workers attempt to avoid contact with state authorities. However, this aversion to the current law does not prevent them from making claims for legal change. Surprisingly, indoor and outdoor sex workers hold opposing views on the appropriate level of regulation and state involvement in the sex industry. Remarkably, although outdoor sex workers have more negative experiences with arbitrators of the law, they desire the law’s protection. In contrast, indoor sex workers’ main grievance is for sex work to be a legitimate industry that can operate with only minimal state control. These differences in outdoor and indoor workers’ legal claims are explicable by sharp cleavages in social status, vulnerability and degree of criminalisation. These findings demonstrate that intra-group differences in the legal consciousness of marginalised groups are key to understanding the role of social and legal status in shaping legal claims.
I connect commodification arguments to an empirical literature, present a mechanism by which commodification may occur, and show how this may restrict the range of goods and services that are subject to commodification, therefore having implications for the use of commodification arguments in political theory. Commodification arguments assert that some people’s trading a good or service can debase it for third parties. They consist of a normative premise, a theory of value, and an empirical premise, a mechanism whereby some people’s market exchange affects how goods can be valued by others. Hence, their soundness depends on the existence of a suitable candidate mechanism for the empirical premise. The ‘motivation crowding effect’ has been cited as the empirical base of commodification. I show why the main explanations of motivation crowding – signaling and over-justification – do not provide mechanisms that could underpin the empirical premise. In doing this, I reveal some requirements on any candidate mechanism. I present a third explanation of motivation crowding, based on the crowding out of frames, and show how it fulfills the requirements. With a mechanism in hand, I explore the type of goods and services to which commodification arguments are applicable. The mechanism enables markets to break down ‘shared valuations’, which is a subset of the valuations that proponents of commodification arguments are concerned with. Further, it can only break down relatively fragile shared understandings and therefore, I suggest, it cannot support a commodification argument regarding the sale of sexual services.
Vaughn, Michael Patrick. „Client Power and the Sex Work Transaction: The Influence of Race, Class, and Sex Work Role in the Post-Apartheid Sex Work Industry“. Sexuality & Culture, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-019-09594-7.
Systems of power influence client–sex worker interactions, in part, by shifting how actors perceive the interaction. In the present study, I argue that clients of sex workers determine appropriate behavior during the sex work transaction based on how they perceive the sex worker from whom they are purchasing services. Systems of power, such as race, socioeconomic status, and the local sex work status hierarchy, influence this perception. I present an analysis of national survey data on South African clients’ self-reported condom use and interview data on South African clients’ experiences while purchasing sex. Taking both data sets together, I find that clients characterize sex workers based on the sex workers’ perceived race, class, and the venue in which they work. Clients discussed perceiving the sex worker as a commodified object, one which ought to be used differently depending on their positionality. This perception manifest behaviorally when discussing sexual health risk and the appropriateness of violence against sex workers. Through this analysis, I demonstrate the utility of conceptualizing power along multiple levels of analysis (interpersonally and structurally) when studying decision-making in the sex work industry.
The use of selfies as a political tool is critical to the form, shape and expression of online activist networks. In the trending Twitter #FacesOfProstitution, such self-presenting practices challenged the prevailing politics of anonymity around sex work and articulated new modes of political organizing, agency and information dissemination within a networked online community. Analysing the sex worker online campaign using feminist materialist approaches to the body this interdisciplinary article contributes to current discussions about selfies and embodied forms of activism in online spaces and addresses a gap in sex advocacy literature on digital protest cultures.