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The Complexities of Supply & Demand: Intimacy, Sexual Labour & Commerce Dr Teela Sanders University of Leeds

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Presentation on theme: "The Complexities of Supply & Demand: Intimacy, Sexual Labour & Commerce Dr Teela Sanders University of Leeds"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Complexities of Supply & Demand: Intimacy, Sexual Labour & Commerce Dr Teela Sanders University of Leeds

2 Drawing on sociological studies Ten month study Observations and interviews in brothels, street, escorts in UK 300 people across industry What are risks? How are they managed? Sex as ‘work’ – what this means ?

3 Other side of the coin… Interviews with 50 men Self selecting sample Observations of Internet message boards Motivations, Experiences, Meanings, Understandings of Buying sex

4 Is the oldest profession the most adaptable? “Why is it that a practice so thoroughly disapproved, so widely outlawed in Western civilization, can yet flourish so universally?’ (Davis, 1938:744) American Sociological Review

5 Outline of presentation The law, informal economies and criminalisation UK policy – victimhood narrative and criminalisation of sex workers / ‘Tackling Demand’ Review Push & Pull factors that engage men Is there such a thing as intimacy in commercial sex? Supply chains – why women enter into sex industry Respectability, class, embourgeoisiement Consumerism and late capitalism

6 Recent Policy Developments Being Outside: constructing a response to street prostitution (Scottish Executive,2004) Prostitution (Public Places) (Scotland)Act 2007 Paying the Price (Home Office, 2004) Co-ordinated Prostitution Strategy (Home Office, 2006) New ‘Tackling Demand’ Review (July 2008) Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill (2008): Section 71: Removal of “common prostitute” Section 72: Orders to promote rehabilitation Compulsory Rehabilitation Orders

7 Coordinated Prostitution Strategy 2006 Rejected managed zones – condoning Rejected licensed brothel system Eradication of street prostitution through… ‘Exiting’ and/or criminalisation of sex workers - ASBOs ‘Tackling Demand’ Trafficking and sexual exploitation Move from victim to offender Move from fines to ASBOs / imprisonment Increase in sex workers sent to prison


9 ‘Tipplezones’ in Holland

10 Redefining who is the ‘problem’  1980’s + men who buy sex problematised  Increase in laws against ‘the kerbcrawler’  1985 Sexual Offences Act - shift in who was the problem  2001 Criminal Justice & Police Act - kerbcrawling an arrestable offence  2003 Criminal Justice Act - conditional cautioning  Peak between : 993 men arrested (2002)

11 Coordinated Prostitution Strategy: Tackling Demand  Enforcement of existing laws for kerbcrawling  Addressing concerns from communities  Informal warning / court diversion / prosecution  Crackdowns, zero tolerance decoys, supporting naming and shaming, media coverage, driving licenses revoked, fines, rehabilitation programmes  High profile naming and shaming – Aberdeen / Leeds: impact on families??  2008 – another review of ‘tackling demand’ with view to criminalising men who buy



14 Yet the UK market blossoms Street beats still exist Website where men post reports about their commercial sexual encounters in the UK 80,000 reports written since 1999 £10 million expenditure Lap dancing annual turnover of £300 million Private parlours - £5 million – same as cinema expenditure Male migrant Sex markets In london

15 Whether legal, illegal, or somewhere in the middle Sex industries are thriving, expanding, adapting in late capitalism across the globe. WHY?

16 Who buys sex and why ? Push Factors Stages of life – ritual & circumstance Older men and sexuality Unsatisfactory sexual relationships Unease with conventional dating etiquette Emotional needs beyond sex ‘Time out’ & quality of life in ‘overwork’ culture – acceptability of buying sex in some occupational cultures

17 Performing the ‘male client’ role  5 key features of the traditional male sexual script that are also prominent in commercial sexual relationships between regulars and sex workers. (Sanders, 2008)  role of communication  courtship rituals  sexual familiarity  mutual ‘satisfaction’  development of ‘friendship’ and emotional connections

18 Social factors: opportunity and change Pull factors: 1  Social environment presents opportunity  Internet  Travel / tourism  Accessibility and availability  Pleasure saturated culture (Illouz,1997)  Shifting acceptability to buy sex.  Reduced stigma Pull factors: 2  ‘Sex as leisure’ (Hawkes, 1996)  Sexualization of the night time economy  Fantasy as corporate strategy  McDonaldization of sex industry (Hausbeck & Brents, 2002) …… ‘

19 Who works in the sex industry? Supply Low wages for long hours OR Low wages for long hours OR Higher wages for less hours Higher wages for less hours Mainstream economy for migrant workers Mainstream economy for migrant workers Rational decision making process Rational decision making process Many reasons for entering Many reasons for entering Single parents Single parents Students Students Fast money / debt Fast money / debt Sex as ‘work’ Sexual labour Sexual labour Emotional labour (Hochschild,1979) Emotional labour (Hochschild,1979) Bodily capital – not selling ‘themselves’ but services Bodily capital – not selling ‘themselves’ but services Women exploiting their sexuality / femininity Women exploiting their sexuality / femininity Selling a fantasy within commercially bounded contract Selling a fantasy within commercially bounded contract Exploitation within this meaning: working conditions / stigma Exploitation within this meaning: working conditions / stigma

20 Demand & Supply Interact Abolitionist arguments fail to understand the interactions between supply, demand and the market Persistent inequalities and opportunities / entrepreneurship for women ($£) = supply Persistent push and pull factors for men = demand Consumerism as key force in late capitalism: 1) Commodification of sexuality 2) ‘Mainstreaming’ of sex and commerce

21 So, why do Western civilizations tolerate the sex industry? Capitalism = economic framework that commodifies everything The market/profit most powerful dynamic in cultural change? Sex, bodies, sexuality, pleasure are not exempt Respectability, professionalization, embourgeoisiement ensures expansion & mainstreaming Tension between ‘the market’ and ‘morals’ BUT shifts in economic place of the sex industry through mainstreaming means that social and cultural norms adapt as capitalism embraces sexual and bodily commodification. The universality of a LESS disapproved of practice

22 References Bernstein, E 'The Meaning of the Purchase : Desire, Demand and the Commerce of Sex', Ethnography 2(3): — 2007 'Sex work for the Middle Classes', Sexualities 10(4): Brents, B. and Hausbeck, K 'Marketing Sex: U.S Legal Brothels and Late Capitalist Consumption', Sexualities 10(4). Davis, K 'The Sociology of Prostitution', American Journal of Sociology 2(5): Hausbeck, K. and Brents, B. G 'McDonaldization of the Sex Industries? The Business of Sex', in G. Ritzer (ed) McDonaldization: The Reader: Pine Forge Press. Hawkes, G A Sociology of Sex and Sexuality, Buckingham: Open University Press. Hochschild, A 'Emotion Work, Feeling Rules and Social Structure', American Journal of Sociology 85(3): Illouz, E Consuming the Romantic Utopia, Berkeley: University of California Press. Sanders, T 'Male Sexual Scripts: Intimacy, Sexuality and Pleasure in the Purchase of Commercial Sex, ' Sociology 42(1).

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