This contribution examines how feminist economists have conceptualized sex work and trafficking through the lens of agency and stigma. The ongoing debate about legalization has focused on sex workers’ agency and choice, and on the role of stigma in shaping the supply of and demand for sex work. Building on the analysis advanced by contributions to this special issue, this study contends that theoretical and policy debates about sex work are dominated by false dichotomies of agency and stigma. It argues that the relationship between stigma and agency operates along a continuum of contractual arrangements that underpins a high degree of segmentation in the industry. The higher the stigma, the lower tends to be the agency. Current policies toward sex work therefore need reconsideration – especially mounting support for criminalization of clients, which, by increasing stigma, is likely to detract from the agency and the well-being of sex workers, however unintentionally.
Feminist legal scholars have long exposed the mutually constitutive relationship between the market and the social sphere, particularly, of the family, as mediated by the state. A peculiar division of labour has emerged in American feminist legal theorizing on the market in the context of care work, on the one hand, and sex work on the other. Care is valorized, thus entrenching the family‐market dichotomy while the sex‐work debates view the market as a source of harm and violence and therefore to be eliminated from the social. This produces a problematic feminist understanding of the market and generates legal reforms that produce unintended consequences for women themselves. The article offers an economic sociology of law pursued in legal ethnographic terms as a way of revitalizing contemporary feminist legal thought on the market and, indeed, the economy, illustrating its use in the context of international anti‐trafficking law and transnational surrogacy.
Author: Cynthia Pope
Journal of International Women’s Studies, Vol. 6 Issue 2, Art. 7 (06/2005)
The global political economy of desire influences the construction of gendered spaces in Cuba. One of the results of increasing global linkages has been the rise in sex tourism throughout the world. This is particularly salient in Havana where girls and women are increasingly being drawn to commercial sex work as a means for economic survival and access to dollars-only places, such as restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, and stores. Despite forty years of gender equity laws and a highly-educated population, sex work in Cuba has come full circle, and the nation is quickly gaining the reputation, “the Thailand of the Caribbean.”
This case study draws on 38 interviews with sex workers, locally known as jineteras, in Havana’s tourist districts. It examines the physical, social, and moral spaces in which sex work takes place and teases out some of the more salient power relations involved in creating and maintaining these spaces. Using a geographic lens illuminates some of the influences of sex work on Cuban society that otherwise may go unnoticed. Sex work in Havana is not merely a side note to the economic crisis of the 1990s. Rather, sex work affects many sectors of the dollars-only economy in Havana; it highlights race and class issues that many people think have been eradicated by Revolutionary ideology; and it shows how women’s bodies, and not just sex workers’ bodies, have been commodified for personal, and even national, economic gain.