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Tag Archives: Stigma and Discrimination

Benoit, Cecilia, S. Mikael Jansson, Michaela Smith, and Jackson Flagg. “Prostitution Stigma and Its Effect on the Working Conditions, Personal Lives, and Health of Sex Workers.” The Journal of Sex Research, November 17, 2017, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2017.1393652.
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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.

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Abstract
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One fifth of the Bruges prostitutes in the eighteenth century was prosecuted by the bench of aldermen because their family had requested this. Families called in the help of the court firstly because they were worried about their daughters, wives and sisters and secondly because the sexual reputation of their deviant relatives affected their own lives as well. Families lost their honour because sexual debauchery was a sign of mal education and because it revealed that the family was not able to control the behaviour of its womenfolk. Therefore, prostitutes were, as the eighteenth century synonym seems to indicate, ‘dishonest’ towards their parents. In general, families only went to court when their daughters proved unruly, which is when the families did not succeed in adjusting the dishonest behaviour themselves. When they did go to court, they put great effort in proving ‘good parenthood’ because they had to counterbalance the stigma of dishonesty already affecting them. The bench of aldermen was willing to help honest families with controlling their unruly daughters, partly because the city had a fatherly responsibility over its own citizens. Hence, the Bruges dishonest daughters were imprisoned in the spinning or correction house.
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Full article available here.

Gregory Swedberg; Moralizing Public Space: Prostitution, Disease, and Social Disorder in Orizaba, Mexico, 1910–1945, Journal of Social History, 2017https://doi.org/10.1093/jsh/shx083

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This article explores how women working as prostitutes in Orizaba, Mexico, laid claim to a more revolutionary vision of women’s citizenship. Prostitutes pushed the state to realize the promises of the Mexican Revolution, even as officials and many local residents—rich and poor—retained outmoded notions of gender and citizenship. This research indicates that “respectable” poor and working-class individuals gravitated toward traditional gender values so as to position themselves as respectable in the eyes of state agents charged with policing morality and public health. State officials’ rhetoric of egalitarianism that followed the Mexican Revolution fell flat for the public women whose pecuniary position persisted long after the guns fell silent.

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There is a notable shift toward more repression and criminalization in sex work policies, in Europe and elsewhere. So-called neo-abolitionism reduces sex work to trafficking, with increased policing and persecution as a result. Punitive “demand reduction” strategies are progressively more popular. These developments call for a review of what we know about the effects of punishing and repressive regimes vis-à-vis sex work. From the evidence presented, sex work repression and criminalization are branded as “waterbed politics” that push and shove sex workers around with an overload of controls and regulations that in the end only make things worse. It is illustrated how criminalization and repression make it less likely that commercial sex is worker-controlled, non-abusive, and non-exploitative. Criminalization is seriously at odds with human rights and public health principles. It is concluded that sex work criminalization is barking up the wrong tree because it is fighting sex instead of crime and it is not offering any solution for the structural conditions that sex work (its ugly sides included) is rooted in. Sex work repression travels a dead-end street and holds no promises whatsoever for a better future. To fight poverty and gendered inequalities, the criminal justice system simply is not the right instrument. The reasons for the persistent stigma on sex work as well as for its present revival are considered.

Dina Francesca Haynes, The Celebritization of Human Trafficking, in: The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol 653, Issue 1, pp. 25 – 45.

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Human trafficking, and especially sex trafficking, is not only susceptible to alluring and sensational narratives, it also plays into the celebrity-as-rescuer ideal that receives considerable attention from the media, the public, and policy-makers. While some celebrities develop enough expertise to speak with authority on the topic, many others are neither knowledgeable nor accurate in their efforts to champion antitrafficking causes. Prominent policy-makers allow celebrity activists to influence their opinions and even consult with them for advice regarding public policies. Emblematic of larger, fundamental problems with the dominant discourse, funding allocations, and legislation in current antitrafficking initiatives in the United States and elsewhere, celebrity activism is not significantly advancing the eradication of human trafficking and may even be doing harm by diverting attention from aspects of the problem and solution that sorely require attention.

Also see:

https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/dina-haynes/when-human-trafficking-becomes-cause-celebre

Stigma is ubiquitous in sex work and is well documented in studies of sex workers. But rarely have scholars examined the vital question of whether, and if so how, stigma can be reduced or eliminated from any type of sex work (commercial stripping, pornography, prostitution, etc.). After a brief review of the issues related to stigma, this Commentary proposes a set of preconditions for the reduction and, ultimately, elimination of stigma from sex work.

Minichiello, Victor, John Scott, and Cameron Cox. “Commentary: Reversing the Agenda of Sex Work Stigmatization and Criminalization: Signs of a Progressive Society.” Sexualities, January 18, 2017, 1363460716684510. doi:10.1177/1363460716684510.
Chapkis, Wendy. “Commentary: Response to Weitzer ‘Resistance to Sex Work Stigma.’” Sexualities, January 18, 2017, 1363460716684511. doi:10.1177/1363460716684511.
Phoenix, Jo. “A Commentary: Response to Weitzer ‘Resistance to Sex Work Stigma.’” Sexualities, January 18, 2017, 1363460716684512. doi:10.1177/1363460716684512.
Weitzer, Ronald. “Additional Reflections on Sex Work Stigma.” Sexualities, January 18, 2017, 1363460716684513. doi:10.1177/1363460716684513.

Abstract

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.