Based on ethnographic data collected during the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this article is interested to examine urban processes which reinvent the changing (sexual) landscape. Focusing on the way (host) cities shape sex work both imaginatively and physically, we explore the (lived) realities of neoliberal imaginaries that shape urban space. Often thought to exist in the urban shadow as an absent-presence in cosmopolitan processes, we demonstrate the manner in which sexualized and racialized women creatively resist the political and economic trajectories of neoliberal urbanism that seek to expropriate land and dispossess certain bodies. In the context of Rio de Janeiro—as in other host cities—this is particularly evident in the routine encounter between sexual minorities and local law enforcement. Mindful of the literature on state incursion into social-sexual life, we remain attentive to the everyday strategies through which those deemed sexually deviant and/or victim navigate local authorities in search of new opportunities for economic salvation in the midst of the sport mega-event.
This article focuses on sex work relations in the Mangue, one of Rio de Janeiro’s red light districts in the 1920s. It follows multiple simultaneous trajectories that converge in Rio’s changing urban landscape: League of Nation’s investigators (some of them undercover), local Brazilian authorities, particularly the police, and Fanny Galper, a former prostitute and madam. It argues that the spatial mobility of the persons involved in sex work is part of broader debates: On the one hand, these experiences of mobility are closely connected to the variegated attempts at surveillance of sex work that characterized Rio de Janeiro in the 1920s and the specific racialized organization of the women’s work as prostitutes. On the other hand, the actors analysed in this article also participated, in different ways, in the production of meanings in broader debates on the international circulation of policies intended to regulate and surveil prostitution. These encounters offer the opportunity to explore some of the intersections between this international circulation of policies, local social dynamics of European immigration, and the racialized history of labor relations in Brazil.
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Researchers have shown that stigma is a fundamental determinant of behavior, well-being, and health for many marginalized groups, but sex workers are notably absent from their analyses. This article aims to fill the empirical research gap on sex workers by reviewing the mounting evidence of stigmatization attached to sex workers’ occupation, often referred to as “prostitution” or “whore” stigma. We give special attention to its negative effect on the working conditions, personal lives, and health of sex workers. The article first draws attention to the problem of terminology related to the subject area and makes the case for consideration of prostitution stigmatization as a fundamental cause of social inequality. We then examined the sources of prostitution stigma at macro, meso, and micro levels. The third section focuses on tactics sex workers employ to manage, reframe, or resist occupational stigma. We conclude with a call for more comparative studies of stigma related to sex work to contribute to the general stigma literature, as well as social policy and law reform.
Megan Lowthers, “On Institutionalized Sexual Economies: Employment Sex, Transactional Sex, and Sex Work in Kenya’s Cut Flower Industry,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 43, no. 2 (Winter 2018): 449-472.
Today Kenya boasts the longest standing, largest, and most lucrative cut flower industry across Africa, concentrated around Lake Naivasha. Naivasha’s flower farms depend on a female migrant labor market that operates within a system of intense gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual-economic exchange. Female labor migrants sometimes participate in types of sexual commerce that are so entrenched within the cut flower industry that they can be termed an “institutionalized sexual economy.” Drawing on feminist ethnography and migration stories, this article documents the gendered and unequal labor continuum of sexual commerce that exists at Naivasha’s flower farms. This includes how female labor migrants exchange sex for employment at the flower farms—what I call “employment sex”—and how they engage in transactional sex with flower farm managers, supplement their incomes with part-time sex work, and move in and out of full-time, street-level sex work as their temporary flower farm contracts turn over. Examining this labor continuum of sexual commerce provides insight into the broader context of local employment options and conditions, work practices and policies, migration patterns, gender relations and unpaid labor, and the sex workers’ rights movement. This article is the first to use critical feminist theories to examine sexual commerce at flower farms and to place the sex-work-as-work debate squarely in the context of the cut flower industry. The absence of this subject from scholarship to date has contributed to a lack of sex worker perspectives, experiences, and sociocultural understandings of institutionalized sexual economies in Africa.