Sex workers have reported a history of stigma associated with their identity and labor, which has resulted in numerous barriers to justice, social services, and healthcare. The current study aimed to experimentally investigate the effects of sex work stigma on observers’ victim blame and empathy toward sexual assault survivors. The participants included 197 undergraduate students from the Midwestern US who were randomly assigned to read a newspaper article reporting a sexual assault in which the victim’s identity was manipulated as a sex worker or a non-sex worker between the conditions. Results indicated participants assigned to the article describing the rape of a sex worker responded to the article with statistically less victim empathy and more victim blame than participants who read an article describing the rape of a non-sex worker. Integrating stigma theory and qualitative research on sex work stigma, the implications of the results demonstrate a significant barrier sex workers may face within the criminal justice system when reporting acts of violence against them. Recommendations for sex work decriminalization, changing the conversation of academic discourse on sex work, and educational initiatives are proposed to reduce the stigma of this marginalized population.
In the last decades a series of sexual services that offer company, talk, and more generally, what is understood as a ‘girlfriend experience’, are increasingly offered to a middle and upper-middle class clientele. These services involve a change in the boundaries of intimacy. We argue that they can be interpreted as part of the general process by which late capitalism has subsumed the 1968 critique that demanded liberation and authenticity. Based on an analysis of in-depth interviews with escorts and street walkers, we explore the discourse of authenticity in escort work in Spain and how the line is drawn between an ‘authentic intimacy’ that is sold, and a ‘private intimacy’, which involves the non-commodified affective life of the sex worker. We argue that escorts and street walkers draw these borders differently, the former emphasising authenticity in their service. Both, however, deploy a form of emotional labour.
This article explores the discursive and practical entanglements of women’s work and sex trafficking, in Britain and internationally, in the early twentieth century. It examines discussions about trafficking and women’s work during a period that was instrumental in codifying modern, international conceptions of ‘trafficking’ and argues that porous and faulty borders were drawn between sex work, women’s licit work, and their sexual exploitation and their exploitation as workers. These borders were at their thinnest in discussions about two very important sectors of female-dominated migrant labour: domestic and care work, and work in the entertainment industry. The anti-trafficking movement, the international labour movement, and the makers of national laws and policies, attempted to separate sexual labour from other forms of labour. In doing so, they wilfully ignored or suppressed moments when they obviously intersected, and downplayed the role of other exploited and badly-paid licit work that sustained the global economy. But these attempts were rarely successful: despite the careful navigations of international and British officials, work continued to find its way back into discussions of sex trafficking, and sex trafficking remained entangled with the realities of women’s work.
Across occupations, people contend with the difficult task of managing time between their work and other aspects of life. Previous research on stigmatized industries has suggested that so-called ‘dirty workers’ experience extreme identity segmentation between these two realms because they tend to cope with their occupational stigma by placing distance between their work and personal lives. Through a qualitative study of Nevada’s legal brothel industry, this article focuses on the prevalence of boundary segmentation as a dominant work–life management practice for dirty workers. Our analysis suggests that work–life boundaries are disciplined by legal mythologies and ambiguities surrounding worker restrictions, occupational ideologies of ‘work now, life later,’ and perceived and experienced effects of community-based stigma. These legal, occupational and community constructs ultimately privilege organizations’ and external communities’ interests, while individual dirty workers carry the weight of stigma.