Most literature on prostitution centres exclusively on street and female sex workers. Considering the lack of inclusion of trans sex workers within research agendas and public policies, in this article I analyse websites where trans women offer their services in Portugal and the UK. I examine the way trans women escorts present themselves to potential clients through detailed descriptions of their bodies’ sizes, physical attributes, personal characteristics and lovemaking skills, and how they negotiate gender, nationality, race, ethnicity and sexuality in relation to the cultural and socio-economic demands of the market. An intersectional framework provides the critical perspective from which to consider how certain trans narratives are displayed through these online advertisements while decentring hegemonic notions (mainly, white and middle class) of representing trans experiences. This exploratory research aims to better understand the online trans sex industry as a place of empowerment where ‘beautiful’ trans escorts can strategically position themselves in order to succeed in a competitive market and, simultaneously, lay claim for a certain degree of (finite) recognition.
Brown, K., & Sanders, T. (2017). Pragmatic, Progressive, Problematic: Addressing Vulnerability through a Local Street Sex Work Partnership Initiative. Social Policy and Society, 1-13. doi:10.1017/S1474746416000634
Whilst it remains a criminal activity to solicit sex publicly in the UK, it has become increasingly popular to configure sex workers as ‘vulnerable’, often as a means of foregrounding the significant levels of violence faced by female street sex workers. Sex work scholars have highlighted that this discourse can play an enabling role in a moralistic national policy agenda which criminalises and marginalises those who sell sex. Yet multiple and overlapping narratives of vulnerability circulate in this policy arena, raising questions about how these might operate at ground level. Drawing on empirical data gathered in the development of an innovative local street sex work multi-agency partnership in Leeds, this article explores debates, discourses and realities of sex worker vulnerability. Setting applied insights within more theoretically inclined analysis, we suggest how vulnerability might usefully be understood in relation to sex work, but also highlight how social justice for sex workers requires more than progressive discourses and local initiatives. Empirical findings highlight that whilst addressing vulnerability through a local street sex work multi-agency partnership initiative, a valuable platform for shared action on violence in particular can be created. However, an increase in fundamental legal and social reform is required in order to address the differentiated and diverse lived experiences of sex worker vulnerability.
Mulvihill, N. (2017). The criminalisation of paying for sex in England and Wales: How gender and power are implicated in the making of policy. Journal of Public Policy, 1-25. doi:10.1017/S0143814X16000295
This article considers how gender and power are implicated in how prostitution policy is translated from initial proposal to enactment in law. The analysis brings together Freeman’s proposal for “policy translation” (2009) and Connell’s work on “hegemonic masculinity” (1987 with Messerschmidt 2005) to examine Hansard and other United Kingdom Parliament documents relating to Clause 13/14 of the Policing and Crime Bill 2008–2009, a proposal to criminalise the purchase of sex in England and Wales. It is argued here that hegemonic masculinity is implicated in how “responsibility” and “exploitation” in relation to sex purchase are disputed and defined within the Parliamentary debates on Clause 13/14, and this in turn informed the version of criminalisation that emerged as authoritative. This article reflects finally on how far mapping the translation of policy can elucidate the operation of gender and power within the policy process.
Full article available here.
English Collective of Prostitutes. Decriminalisation of Prostitution: the Evidence. Report of parliamentary symposium, 3 November 2015, House of Commons, 2016.
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This chapter describes my experiences of conducting research on commercial sex in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which was conducted as part of a larger British Academy–Leverhulme Trust-funded study that examined the policing and legal regulation of commercial sex in Belfast (Northern Ireland) along with three other cities: Manchester (England), Berlin (Germany) and Prague (Czech Republic). This study provided the first empirical analysis of commercial sex in the jurisdiction and was instrumental in shedding light on prevalence rates for those involved in the industry as well as providing demographic information on the age, nationality and sexual orientation of sex workers along with the sector worked in, whether on-street or off-street (Ellison 2015). While academics and researchers are now well attuned to the varieties and differences in the organisation of commercial sex both within and between jurisdictions, what is less well studied and understood are the ways in which attitudes to commercial sex are deeply embedded in local political cultures (Ellison 2015; Zimmerman 2012). In the chapter, I consider my role as a researcher and highlight some of the difficulties that I experienced conducting what was seen as controversial research in the politically, socially and culturally conservative context of Northern Ireland. In this respect, I situate the discussion within the Northern Ireland Assembly’s decision to legislate for Lord Morrow’s (of the Democratic Unionist Party, henceforth DUP) Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill that included a number of provisions to provide support to victims of human trafficking but controversially also included specific provisions to make it a criminal offence to ‘pay for the sexual services of a person’ (Clause 15) in emulation of the so-called ‘Nordic model’ of criminalisation of demand.
A large-scale study of working conditions in UK-based strip dancing clubs reveals that dancers are against de facto self-employment as it is defined and practised by management, but in favour of de jure self-employment that ensures sufficient levels of autonomy and control in the workplace. While dancers could potentially seek ‘worker’ or ‘employee’ status within the existing legal framework, their strong identification with the label ‘self-employed’ and their desire for autonomy will likely inhibit these labour rights claims. We propose an alternative avenue for improving dancers’ working conditions, whereby self-employed dancers articulate their grievances as a demand for decent work, pursued through licensing agreements between clubs and local authorities and facilitated by collective organization.
The Student Sex Work Project was set up in 2012 in the United Kingdom (UK) to locate students who are involved in the sex industry, to discover their motivations and needs, and in doing so provide an evidence base to consider the development of policy and practice within Higher Education. As part of this initiative, a large survey was undertaken comprising students from throughout the UK. Reporting on the findings from this survey, the article sheds some light on what occupations students take up in the sex industry, what motivates their participation and how they experience the work. The study also offers a much-needed empirical input to the ongoing academic debates on the nature of sex work. The results suggest that there can be little doubt of a student presence within the sex industry in the UK. The motivations and experiences of student sex workers cover elements of agency and choice as well as of force and exploitation and it is suggested that student sex work is best understood from a polymorphous framework which leaves room for a wide variety of experiences and challenges.