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.
It argues that while the Czechoslovak state attempted to suppress prostitution through criminal law, conceptualizing it as ‘parasitism’, many of the State Socialist experts ultimately fell back on the extra-legal normative system of gender. Women in prostitution were condemned for their sexually promiscuous behaviour while all women were blamed for failing in their gender roles as good women, wives and mothers. Whereas the official policy was thus enforcing socialist morality, the experts reverted to traditional bourgeois morality, in clear betrayal of the promises of both Marxism-Leninism and the State Socialist ideology as regards the equality of the sexes.
The heightened responsibility all women were given to prevent prostitution was unique. State Socialist Czechoslovakia is thus more than yet another case study of a repressive regime that controls and punishes the more vulnerable side of the prostitution transaction and apportions blame in a gendered way. Instead, it demonstrates how prostitution can become a vehicle for promoting and upholding traditional gender norms not only towards women in prostitution, but all women in society.
Lin Lean Lim (International Institute for Labour Studies, International Labour Organization), “Trafficking, Demand and the Sex Market” Paper presented at the International Symposium on Gender at the Heart of Globalization, Paris, March 2007.
Trafficking in persons has emerged high on international, regional and national agendas as a forced labour issue involving particular supply-demand factors in imperfect labour markets at origin and destination. The ILO defines forced labour as all work or service that is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered herself or himself voluntarily. Forced labour involves violation of human rights and restriction on human freedom, slavery and slavery-like practices, debt bondage and servitude. Women and men, girls are boys are trafficked, but gender, socio-cultural and market biases determine the type and severity of forced labour in different sectors. The ILO estimated in 2004 that 2.45 million people in forced labour had been trafficked across international boundaries. Of these about 43 per cent had been destined for sexual exploitation, and a third for economic exploitation. Of those trafficked for prostitution, 98 per cent were women and girls.
Until recently, efforts to tackle trafficking tended to focus on the supply side with measures aimed at addressing the conditions, in particular poverty and unemployment, that drive people to leave their home in the first place. Attention has now shifted to the demand side of trafficking, in particular the demand for trafficked persons’ services in the sex market.
The presentation emphasizes that trafficking should not be conflated with prostitution and that a “prohibitionist” or “abolitionist” approach to end demand in the sex market is not an effective solution to tackle trafficking. It examines demand and the demand side of trafficking and the particular characteristics of the market for commercial sexual services, including the economic and social bases of the market. The challenge we face is to address the real root causes of trafficking – the reasons why people migrate and are trafficked and the reasons why other people are able to traffic them. It is not enough merely to regulate the sex market; we need to address the areas of vulnerability. At the same time, the related – and perhaps more difficult – challenge is to place the respect for and protection of human rights at the centre of all measures to combat trafficking and to disentangle human rights concerns from morality biases concerning prostitution.