As anti-trafficking social service providers (SSPs) facilitate the process of victim recovery and empowerment, they also participate in the dissemination of trafficking-related knowledge to the general public. Drawing on a feminist postcolonial framework, this study sought to examine how anti-trafficking SSPs represent trafficking victims in written narratives published on their organizational websites. Thirty-three narratives were drawn from the websites of 10 New York–based anti-trafficking SSPs. Despite the widespread adoption of a strength-based term, “survivor,” the narratives were found to reinforce a gendered and racialized representation of trafficking victims as sex trafficked women from the “global South” and to (re)produce many “ideal” trafficking victim stereotypes that have been dominating the current discourses of trafficking. A “life transformation” discourse was pervasive, discursively foregrounding the positive impact of the SSPs on trafficking survivors. The findings suggested a need for anti-trafficking SSPs to engage with critical reflection on their positionality and intentionality in representing trafficking victims/survivors and to adopt a survivor-led storytelling paradigm. This study also provided a timely reminder for social work practitioners and researchers to continue to challenge the dominant narratives embedded in their fields of practice, to exercise critical self-reflexivity, and to provide a discursive space for those who have been deprived of voices.
Most research on transactional sex frame men as buyers and females as sellers of sex. We conducted a systematic mapping review of the empirical research on transactional sex where women form the demand (buyer) and men the supply (seller). We included 46 studies, of which 25 explicitly researched women as buyers of sex from male sellers, and 21 studies where this topic was a subset of larger topics. The majority of research on women who trade sexual services from men is published in the last 15 years, by female researchers, using cross-sectional or qualitative/ethnographic design, and from the perspective of males as sellers. While the women appear to be mature and financially independent, the men are young and socioeconomically vulnerable. Men’s main motivation for the sexual-economic exchanges with women is financial, whereas women’s motivations are largely satisfaction of sexual needs and a stereotyped erotic fantasy of black male hypersexuality. Condoms are often not used. Our review shows that there is a – possibly growing and diversifying – female consumer demand for male sexual services, and transactional sex where women trade sex from men is a complex social phenomenon ﬁrmly grounded in social, economic, political, and sexual relations.
Within the field of psychology, the development of a culture of competency both in training programs and, more specifically, related to working with historically underrepresented and underserved populations has been making significant progress. One group who has been neglected, however, consists of individuals who consensually work in the commercial sex trade industry (i.e., sex workers). The current Delphi study begins to address this gap. Using responses from eight sex workers to explore factors affecting disclosure of occupation to therapists, barriers and facilitators to receiving mental health care, and areas for educational growth among mental health professionals, the results reveal participants’ preference for therapists who take an affirming approach regarding their occupation (e.g., respecting the hard work, skill, and emotional labor) and do not assume that they are in therapy because of their work. Broadly, this article highlights the knowledge, skills, and attitudes sex workers believe comprise critical areas of competency for therapists working with this often-stigmatized population. Ultimately, these results can be used to advance competent, just, and effective therapy with this population.
This paper draws on theories of masculinity to explore men’s motivations for beginning and continuing to pay for sex with women. Based on in-depth interviews with 35 male clients of female sex workers in the UK during 2007/2008, our findings suggest that a desire to pay for sex is often entrenched in notions of hegemonic masculinity such as sex as a drive, or need for a variety of experiences and partners and is rationalized as an economic exchange. Yet, the men interviewed also expressed a need for intimacy, female friendship and conversation in a controlled environment, which challenged dominant masculine ideals. For participants, there was often an overlap between various motivational factors, and accounts were complicated by the anxieties and disappointments the men expressed about their non-commercial relationships and the intimacy and emotion frequently attached to encounters with sex workers. The pathologization of men who engage with paid sexual services fails to account for participants’ complex, diverse motivations, which should be understood in the context of other relationships and gender relations rather than as a distinct type of interaction. We find that the theory of hegemonic masculinity provides a useful but partial account of the range of behaviors and characteristics expressed in paid-for sex, which participants use to negotiate the expectations, ambivalences and disappointments of everyday life and relationships.
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.
The “pussy patrols” in academia are the economic, discursive, sexual, and epistemological forms of violence in academia that control, silence, and reroute all femmes—not just cis women—in higher education. Although feminists have long examined sexual harassment in educational and occupational spaces, very few have turned their attention to the specific, embodied experiences of sex-working academics. Employing “epistemic disobedience” and “Critical Life Story” interviewing methodologies, I look at the experiences of thirteen sex-working academics, including my own experiences as a sex-working undergraduate and graduate student. I disrupt the false dichotomy of empowerment/oppression in the sex industry; I ask if higher education is necessarily emancipatory; and I offer suggestions, based on the forced rerouting and silencing of sex-working academics, for moving forward as activist-academics. Indeed, the time for rebelling against the strict academic codes that rely on Cartesian dualism is now.
In England, sex workers are placed at the edges of the law. How the social and legal status of sex workers impacts on their perception of and interaction with the law in a semi-legal setting has not yet been explored. Drawing on fifty-two qualitative interviews with indoor and outdoor sex workers in England, this study investigates their disposition to the law, legality and the state. The commonalities and discrepancies between the experiences of indoor and outdoor sex workers reveal the influence of the combination of legal framework and social status on sex workers’ legal consciousness. This study finds that, even in a setting of semi-legality, sex workers attempt to avoid contact with state authorities. However, this aversion to the current law does not prevent them from making claims for legal change. Surprisingly, indoor and outdoor sex workers hold opposing views on the appropriate level of regulation and state involvement in the sex industry. Remarkably, although outdoor sex workers have more negative experiences with arbitrators of the law, they desire the law’s protection. In contrast, indoor sex workers’ main grievance is for sex work to be a legitimate industry that can operate with only minimal state control. These differences in outdoor and indoor workers’ legal claims are explicable by sharp cleavages in social status, vulnerability and degree of criminalisation. These findings demonstrate that intra-group differences in the legal consciousness of marginalised groups are key to understanding the role of social and legal status in shaping legal claims.