Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 6

Sex Work Related Abstracts

6 Male Sex Workers’ Constructions of Selling Sex in South Africa

Authors: Tara Panday, Despina Learmonth


Sex work is often constructed as being an interaction between male clients and female sex workers. As a result, street-based male sex workers are continuously overlooked in the South African literature. This qualitative study explored male sex workers’ subjective experiences and constructions of their male clients’ identities and the client-sex worker relationship. This research was conducted from a social-constructionist perspective, which allowed for a deeper understanding of the reasons and context driving the choices and actions of male sex workers. Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 10 South African men working as sex workers in Cape Town. Data was analysed through thematic analysis. The findings of the study construct the client-sex worker relationship in terms of a professional relationship, constrained choice, sexual identity and need, as well as companionship for pay, potentially highlighting underlying reasons for supply and demand. The data which emerged around the client-sex worker relationship and the clients’ identities also served to illuminate the power-dynamics in the client-sex worker relationship. This data increases insight into the exploitation and disempowerment experienced by male sex workers through verbal abuse, physical and sexual violence, and unfairly enforced laws and regulations. The findings of this study suggest that, in the context of South Africa, male sex workers' experiences of the client-sex worker relationship cannot be completely understood without considering the intersectionality of the triple stigmatisation of: the criminality of sex work, race, and the lack of economic power, which systematically maintains marginalization. Motivating for the Law Reform Commission to continue to review all emerging research may assist with guiding related policy and thereby, the provision of equal human rights and adequate health and social interventions for all sex workers in South Africa.

Keywords: Human Rights, prostitution, Sex Work, Power Relations

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5 Sex Work Practice and Health Seeking Behavior among Hiv Positive Female Sex Workers in Rural Karnataka, India

Authors: Rajeshwari Biradar


Background: The anecdotal evidences indicate that utilization of HIV services especially in Government facilities is affected by stigma and discrimination among HIV positive female sex workers (FSWs) in Karnataka. To our knowledge, there is no quantitative study on this issue. In this study an attempt is made to examine these aspects among positive FSWs exposed to prevention programs. Methods: This is a cross‐ sectional quantitative survey of HIV positive FSWs in the 3 districts of northern Karnataka using a structured questionnaire. The list of HIV Positive FSWs was organized by stratification, and 607 positive FSWs were selected using a systematic random selection. The data were analyzed using both bivariate and multivariate statistical techniques. Results: Half of the sex workers (52%) are traditional (devadasi, dedicated to the temple), 22% are widowed and the mean age is 33 years. The FSWs practice sex work on an average 13 days a month with 2.3 clients per day and was in sex work for about 13 years. Almost all of them (97%) used condom with the clients they had on the last day of sex work. About 74% were ever registered in the ART center and 47% of them reported being ever on ART, of which 6% dropped out. Multivariate results support the hypothesis that the interventions addressing stigma and discrimination enabled accessing health services in the government facilities (AOR=1.37; p=0.17). Conclusions: Based on the results of the study, programs addressing stigma, discrimination and positive prevention can be implemented in places where government health services are not utilized by HIV positive FSWs. However, the study may be limited by the fact that majority of the FSWs entered into sex work through the traditional devadasi system, which may not be the case in other parts of India.

Keywords: Health, HIV/AIDS, Sex Work, female sex workers

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4 An Ethnographic Study on How Namibian Sex Workers Experience Their Violation of Rights

Authors: Tessa Verhallen, Mama Africa


By co-constructing personal narratives of sex workers in Namibia this paper represents how sex workers experience their violation of rights in Namibia. It is written from an emic (as an advisor for a sex worker-led organization named Rights not Rescue Trust) and an etic (as an ethnographer) point of view, in collaboration with the staff of the organization Rights not Rescue Trust. This organization represents circa 3000 members. The paper describes the current deplorable situation of sex workers in Namibia, encompassing the stigma and discrimination they face, their struggle to have their work decriminalized and their urge to advocate for human rights and the end of violations. Based on a triangular research design (ethnography, narratives, literature study, human rights’ training and counseling sessions) the authors show that sex workers, particularly LGBTI sex workers, are extremely vulnerable to emotional, physical, and sexual violence in Namibia. The main perpetrators of violence turn out to be not only clients and intimate partners but also law enforcement officers and health care workers who are supposed to protect and support sex workers. The sex workers’ narratives voice their disgraceful circumstances regarding how their rights are violated. It also highlights their importance to fight for their rights and access to health care, legal services and education in order to improve the sexual reproductive health of sex workers.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS, Sex Work, LGBTI, methodological innovative

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3 Innocent Victims and Immoral Women: Sex Workers in the Philippines through the Lens of Mainstream Media

Authors: Sharmila Parmanand


This paper examines dominant media representations of prostitution in the Philippines and interrogates sex workers’ interactions with the media establishment. This analysis of how sex workers are constituted in media, often as both innocent victims and immoral actors, contributes to an understanding of public discourse on sex work in the Philippines, where decriminalisation has recently been proposed and sex workers are currently classified as potential victims under anti-trafficking laws but also as criminals under the penal code. The first part is an analysis of media coverage of two prominent themes on prostitution: first, raid and rescue operations conducted by law enforcement; and second, prostitution on military bases and tourism hotspots. As a result of pressure from activists and international donors, these two themes often define the policy conversations on sex work in the Philippines. The discourses in written and televised news reports and documentaries from established local and international media sources that address these themes are explored through content analysis. Conclusions are drawn based on specific terms commonly used to refer to sex workers, how sex workers are seen as performing their cultural roles as mothers and wives, how sex work is depicted, associations made between sex work and public health, representations of clients and managers and ‘rescuers’ such as the police, anti-trafficking organisations, and faith-based groups, and which actors are presumed to be issue experts. Images of how prostitution is used as a metaphor for relations between the Philippines and foreign nations are also deconstructed, along with common tropes about developing world female subjects. In general, sex workers are simultaneously portrayed as bad mothers who endanger their family’s morality but also as long-suffering victims who endure exploitation for the sake of their children. They are also depicted as unclean, drug-addicted threats to public health. Their managers and clients are portrayed as cold, abusive, and sometimes violent, and their rescuers as moral and altruistic agents who are essential for sex workers’ rehabilitation and restoration as virtuous citizens. The second part explores sex workers’ own perceptions of their interactions with media, through interviews with members of the Philippine Sex Workers Collective, a loose organisation of sex workers around the Philippines. They reveal that they are often excluded by media practitioners and that they do not feel that they have space for meaningful self-revelation about their work when they do engage with journalists, who seem to have an overt agenda of depicting them as either victims or women of loose morals. In their assessment, media narratives do not necessarily reflect their lived experiences, and in some cases, coverage of rescues and raid operations endangers their privacy and instrumentalises their suffering. Media representations of sex workers may produce subject positions such as ‘victims’ or ‘criminals’ and legitimize specific interventions while foreclosing other ways of thinking. Further, in light of media’s power to reflect and shape public consciousness, it is a valuable academic and political project to examine whether sex workers are able to assert agency in determining how they are represented.

Keywords: Discourse Analysis, trafficking, Sex Work, news media

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2 'I'm in a Very Safe Place': Webcam Sex Workers in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Their Perceptions of Danger and Risk

Authors: Madeline V. Henry


Sex work is a contested subject in academia. Many authors now argue that the practice should be recognized as a legitimate and rationally chosen form of labor, and that decriminalization is necessary to ensure the safety of sex workers and reduce their stigmatization. However, a prevailing argument remains that the work is inherently violent and oppressive and that all sex workers are directly or indirectly coerced into participating in the industry. This argument has been complicated by the recent proliferation of computer-mediated technologies that allow people to conduct sex work without the need to be physically co-present with customers or pimps. One example of this is the practice of ‘camming’, wherein ‘webcam models’ stream themselves stripping and/or performing autoerotic stimulation in an online chat-room for payment. In this presentation, interviews with eight ‘camgirls’ (aged 22-34) will be discussed. Their talk has been analyzed using Foucauldian discourse analysis, focusing on common discursive threads in relation to the work and their subjectivities. It was found that the participants demonstrated appreciation for the lack of physical danger they were in, but emphasized the unique and significant dangers of online-based sex work (their images and videos being recorded and shared without their consent, for example). Participants also argued that their largest concerns were based around stigma, which they claimed remained prevalent despite the decriminalized legal model in Aotearoa/New Zealand (which has been in place for over 14 years). Overall, this project seeks to challenge commonplace academic approaches to sex work, adding further research to support sex workers’ rights and highlighting new issues to consider in a digital environment.

Keywords: Risk, Sex Work, stigma, camming

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1 Legalizing Prostitution: Providing Equality Amongst Men and Women in the Criminal Justice System through a Socialist Feminist Framework

Authors: Amanda Rebman


This paper challenges the criminal justice system’s traditional stance regarding prostitution. Historically, the acceptance and morality of prostitution within the United States has fluctuated depending upon the social attitudes of the era. Today, prostitutes are allegedly viewed as victims; however, they are treated like criminals throughout the criminal justice system and society. Dominant patriarchal narratives within the United States has resulted in woman lacking autonomy over their bodies and diminished their ability to choose their own career. Even though prostitutes are deemed victims, many times, they are convicted of crimes, a practice that results in further victimization. Utilizing the socialist feminist theory to understand these juxtaposing positions on whether to legalize prostitution facilitates a greater understanding of how patriarchal capitalist arrangements ensure the oppression of women throughout the criminal justice system. The legalization of prostitution will alleviate some of this oppression and ensure a more equal treatment of women in the criminal justice system and society at large.

Keywords: Equality, prostitution, Sex Work, Feminist Theory

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