Sex work is defined from a liberal-feminist view as the negotiating and provision of sexual services by adults in return for payment. In Switzerland, sex work is basically legal and tolerated. The present study does not problematize the nature of sex work. It is considered here as a form of gainful employment rather than deviant behaviour, sexual risk behaviour or violence per se. In a qualitative study using problem focused guided interviews, 13 managers of brothels and contact bars in a Swiss city were questioned about their organizing of work, about working conditions, violence and its prevention. The content analysis of the data (Mayring, 2007) generated a manager typology (based on Kelle and Kluge, 1999). The results project four manager types: (I) collegial all-rounders who run small establishments; (II) co-operative managers of medium-size commercial premises; (III) authoritarian managers of medium-size and large brothels or contact bars and (IV) self-sacrificing managers of medium-size brothels. In respect to violence, these four types are characterized by association with differential degrees of potential risk for sex workers. While types I and IV can be classified as more risky in relation to violence and safety due to their specific characteristics, types II and III are clearly less dangerous for the sex workers. All the managers have introduced protective measures to prevent violence, yet they do not have a specific (explicitly formulated) strategy. In conclusion, the study shows that structural basic conditions and specific organizational working conditions impact on the risk of violence.
Drawing on research in the UK and the Netherlands, this article considers the respective legislative backgrounds, recent policy changes and their implication for sex workers in off-street environments. It considers the impact of different regulatory models on the employment rights, safety and welfare of sex workers and explores how working conditions in different indoor settings might be improved through legal and policy changes. We argue that although decriminalization of sex work is a precondition to secure the labour and human rights of sex workers, the involvement of sex workers in policy development and facilitation of different modes of working are necessary to improve their working conditions and autonomy.
This article draws from interview material with sex worker rights activists in London, and sex work scholarship, to explore the demand for labour rights for sex workers and erotic dancers. I argue that there are two positions visible in activism and scholarship, which I term ‘liberal’ and ‘materialist’. Whilst the former posits that the problem with sex work is insufficient mainstreaming of commercial sex within the labour market, the latter stresses the need for protections and freedoms from the labour market and repressive criminal and immigration laws. I suggest that these two perspectives need to be thought together. To this end, for the first time in the UK context I ask what labour rights can do for erotic dancers and indoor-based sex workers. I argue that, whilst labour law may offer some level of protection, both forms of commercial sexual service are ultimately unmanageable and that the strategy of securing individual labour rights suffers from several limitations. In the final part, I map the materialist frames onto broader feminist citizenship debates. I ask whether these models can deliver the protections sought and tentatively propose that a feminist-oriented demand for a basic income may be of use to the sex worker rights movement today.