Note: This class does not actually exist. I made the syllabus as a sample for a job application (for a job I am not at all qualified for and am unlikely to actually get), and now I’m just showing it off, in “here’s what I would teach” fashion. I cut the boring stuff about assignments and class policies and why you can’t hand your essays in late, so it’s mostly just a reading list. The imaginary class is a third year university labour studies class.
Where the readings are available for free online, I’ve posted links to them. A great many of them are available online, for folks who like to read. I have now found and linked either the original or a very similar replacement for every reading except “The Lone Streetwalker” by Shawna Ferris, which stinks because that’s actually one of my favourite things I’ve read about sex work ever, and “Is Sex Work Queer?” by Corinna McKay. I’ve briefly summarized those two articles.
Of course I am quite open to hearing from other sex workers on what I’ve decided should go into a class like this. One thing I regret — and which I want to think more about how to include — is that there is nothing really practical for sex workers in here. E.g., nothing on how people get into the sex industry, operate various sex businesses, or move on to other jobs.
The textbook for the imaginary class, in which about half of the readings can be found, is Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy and Research on Sex Work in Canada.
Whether we know it or not, each of our lives is intertwined with the lives of sex workers. This course looks at how that happens, by situating sex work in the broader contexts of culture and society. The course offers an overview of the sex industry in a variety of theoretical and material contexts, as well as an in-depth focus on prostitution in the Canadian context—a timely issue, considering the recent appearance of three Canadian sex workers at the Supreme Court of Canada to argue for the decriminalization of prostitution.
Taking “The Prostitute” as the tropic image through which all sex workers are regulated, this course examines conflicting images of who prostitutes and other sex workers are, and how those images developed. In addition to reading key texts by scholarly experts on the sex industry, we will hear from sex workers themselves about their jobs and about their guidelines for students and scholars researching the sex industry.
Students will learn to analyze sex work as work through a variety of theoretical lenses, and to identify similarities and differences in legal and policy positions that respond to feminism, queer theory, critiques of neoliberalism and globalization, postcolonial praxis, and progressive legalism. In the final third of the course, we will look more closely at the areas in which labour policies affect sex workers, including occupational health and safety, the roles of clients and third parties in the sex industry, and sex workers’ labour organizing.
On successful completion of this course, students will:
- be familiar with the scope and modern history of the sex industry
- understand critical and participatory approaches to research ethics, and be able to apply them to study of marginalized workers
- be able to identify sex workers’ labour conditions, including areas for improvement in safety, income and stability
- be able to identify key mainstream, feminist, queer, postcolonial, anticapitalist and labour positions on the sex industry
- be able to identify the aims and structure of the sex workers’ rights movement
- be able to discuss and debate the roles of clients and third parties in the sex industry
- be able to discuss and debate how questions and problems of class, race, gender, sexuality, nation, and belonging are combined and expressed in policy related to sex work
Schedule of Readings and Lectures
I. Introduction and Overview
1. Introduction: Sex? Work? Critical Discourses on Sexuality and Labour
- Anonymous, PhD (1999). I’d Rather be a Whore than an Academic. Bad Subjects, 46.
- Franke, K. M. (2002). Putting Sex to Work. In W. Brown & J. Halley (Eds.), Left Legalism / Left Critique (pp. 299-336). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (So sad that I can’t find this online. But you can read most of it in the Google book here, or you can read it in Spanish, here.)
- Wolkowitz, C. (2002). The social relations of body work. Work, employment & society, 16(3), 497-510. (Not online, but there is a good summary at pp. 14-15 here)
- 2. Varieties of Sex Work: Phone Sex, Cam Sex, Pornography, Stripping, BDSM, Prostitution
- Dawn, A. (2013, 12 June). A Sex Worker’s Struggle to ‘Change the Code.’ The Tyee.
- Fairfax, J. (2004, 18 Apr.). More pain, more gain. The Observer.
- Ferris, S. (2007). The Lone Streetwalker: Missing Women and Sex Work‐related News in Mainstream Canadian Media. West Coast Line 53: Representations of Murdered and Missing Women, 41(1),14‐24. (Ferris argues that images of sex workers overwhelmingly show street workers as white women working alone and “flaunting their safety.” The women’s faces are blacked out or they are shot from behind, and their voices are truncated or left out entirely. In images of missing women, they are shown alone, often in mug shots. For Ferris, this contributes to a culture of violence against sex workers by imagining them as both disposable and always-already disposed by society.)
- JJ (2010, 5 Aug.). An Open Letter from a Stripper. Jezebel.
- Shane, C. (2010, 22 Nov.). Why I’m Happy I Became a Prostitute. Alternet.
- Wakeman, J. (2012, Sept. 6). Frisky Q&A: Phone Sex Operator Sabrina Morgan Talks Kinky Sex, Dirty Talk Tips & Melon Humpers. The Frisky.
(The purpose of reading these blog posts is to get a sense of where, how, when and with what materials people do sex work. The authors have various positions on whether it’s a good job or a bad job, but they were chosen mostly because they describe, frankly and concisely, what their working conditions are like.)
3. Ethics for Sex Work Research
- Agustín, L.M. (2004). Alternate Ethics, or: Telling Lies to Researchers. Research for Sex Work, 7, 6-7.
- Maggie’s: The Toronto Sex Workers Action Project (n.d.). A note to researchers, students, reporters and artists who are not sex workers.
- Shaver, F.M. (2005). Sex Work Research : Methodological and Ethical Challenges. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20(3), 296-319.
- Stella (2006). Sex Workers and Research Ethics.
- Stella (2013). Language Matters: Talking About Sex Work.
- Voss, G. (2012). ‘Treating it as a normal business’: Researching the pornography industry. Sexualities, 15(3/4), 391-410.
4. The Recent and Really Recent History of the Sex Industry
- Agustín, L. M. (2005). Helping Women Who Sell Sex: The Construction of Benevolent Identities. rhizomes, 10, n.p.
- Brents, B.G. & Sanders, T. (2010). Mainstreaming the Sex Industry: Economic Inclusion and Social Ambivalence. Journal of Law and Society, 37(1), 40-60.
- Sex doesn’t sell. (2013, May 25). The Economist.
II. Difference and Marginalization
5. Queer(ing) Sex Work
- Fletcher, T. (2013). Trans Sex Workers: Negotiating Sex, Gender, and Non-Normative Desire. In E. van der Meulen, E. Durisin & V. Love (Eds.), Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy and Research on Sex Work in Canada (pp. 65-73). Vancouver: UBC Press.
- McKay, C. (1999). Is Sex Work Queer? Social Alternatives, 18(3), 48-53. (McKay argues that sex work can be considered “queer,” even when it involves ostensibly “heterosexual” sex between paying men and working women. In her analysis, sex work intervenes in the heteronormative myth that “boy meets girl,” falls in love and marries her.)
- Redwood, R. (2013). Myths and Realities of Male Sex Work: A Personal Perspective. In E. van der Meulen, E. Durisin & V. Love (Eds.), Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy and Research on Sex Work in Canada (pp. 45-57). Vancouver: UBC Press.
(Neither of Redwood’s nor Fletcher’s piece is online. Some of Redwood’s other writing on men’s sex work appears on pp. 35-37, and there is a good section on trans people’s sex work at pp. 38-41, here.)
6. Sex Work Under Neoliberalism
- Bemma, A. (2011). Montreal, Tales of Gentrification in a Bohemian City. MTL-TO Productions. (Excerpts)
- Papayanis M. A. (2000). Sex and the revanchist city: zoning out pornography in New York. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 18(3), 341 – 353 (Not online, but here’s something very similar. I debated about which to include.)
- Roemer, D. & Graham, N. (2007). Last Call at the Gladstone Hotel. Last Call Productions. (Excerpts)
- Ross, B. L. (2010). Sex and (Evacuation from) the City: The Moral and Legal Regulation of Sex Workers in Vancouver’s West End, 1975—1985. Sexualities, 13(2), 197-218.
III. Globalized, Postcolonial and Canadian Contexts
7. Sex Work and Globalization
- Empower Thailand. “Last Rescue in Siam.” Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=70rPAxLFFKU
- Kempadoo, K. (1998). Globalizing Sex Workers’ Rights. Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme, 22(3/4), 143-150.
- Lantz, S. (2005). Students Working in the Melbourne Sex Industry: Education, Human Capital and the Changing Patterns of the Youth Labour Market. Journal of Youth Studies, 8(4), 385-401.
- Lepp, A. (2013). Repeat Performance? Human Trafficking and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. In E. van der Meulen, E. Durisin & V. Love (Eds.), Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy and Research on Sex Work in Canada (pp. 251-268). Vancouver: UBC Press. (Here’s something in the same vein from Analee Lepp.)
- RATS-W Team. Hit and Run: The Impact of Anti Trafficking Policy and Practice on Sex Workers’ Human Rights in Thailand. Empower Foundation. http://www.aidsdatahub.org/dmdocuments/HitandRun_RATSW_Eng_Empower_2012.pdf (Excerpts: i – 2, 50-70)
8. Indigenous Perspectives on Sex Work
- Hunt, S. (2013). Decolonizing Sex Work: Developing an Intersectional Indigenous Approach. In E. van der Meulen, E. Durisin & V. Love (Eds.), Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy and Research on Sex Work in Canada (pp. 82-100). Vancouver: UBC Press. (Not online. Check out some of her other work here.)
- kwetoday (30 July 2013). “Exploration on Indigenous Lands and Exploitation of Indigenous Bodies.” Kwe Today. http://kwetoday.com/2013/07/30/exploration-on-indigenous-lands-and-exploitation-of-indigenous-bodies/
- Native Youth Sexual Health Network & Maggie’s Toronto (15 July 2011). “Indigenous Peoples in the Sex Trade: Speaking For Ourselves.” Incite Blog.
- Razack, S.H. (2001). Gendered Racial Violence and Spatialized Justice: The Murder of Pamela George. Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 15(2), 91-130.
- Welsh, C. (2006). Finding Dawn. National Film Board.
9. Challenges to Prostitution-Related Law in Canada
- Guest speaker from Sex Professionals of Canada on the Bedford v. Canada case
- Lowman, J. (2011). Deadly Inertia: A History of Constitutional Challenges to Canada’s Criminal Code Sections on Prostitution. Beijing Law Review, 2(2), 33-54.
IV. Relationships and Rights in Sex Worksites
10. Health and Safety in the Sex Industry
- Lewis, J., Maticka-Tyndale, E., Shaver, F. & Schramm, H. (2005). Managing Risk and Safety on the Job: The Experiences of Canadian Sex Workers. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 17(1/2), 146-167.
- Pivot Legal Society (2006). Section 3: Current Working Conditions in Various Areas of the Sex Industry. Beyond Decriminalization: Sex Work, Human Rights and a New Framework for Law Reform (pp.18-28). Vancouver.
- Zuluaga, A. & Walia, H. (12 Feb. 2011). “Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside.” Vimeo. http://vimeo.com/19877895
11. Bosses, Coworkers and Consumers in the Sex Industry
- Bruckert, C. & Law, T. (2013). Chapter Two: Why Work For, With or Hire a Third Party – What Sex Workers Say. Beyond Pimps, Procurers and Parasites: Mapping Third Parties in the Incall/Outcall Sex Industry (pp. 25-29). Ottawa.
- Lewis, J. (2006). “I’ll Scratch Your Back If You’ll Scratch Mine”: The Role of Reciprocity, Power and Autonomy in the Strip Club. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 43(3), 297-311.
- Monto, M.A. (2010). Prostitutes’ Customers: Motives and Misconceptions. In R. Weitzer (Ed.), Sex For Sale: Prostitution, Pornography and the Sex Industry (233-254). New York: Routledge. (This one draws on the same data, but the analysis, while still very critical, seems better developed in Sex For Sale..)
12. Sex Workers Organize
- Arthur, J., Davis, S., & Shannon, E. (2013). Overcoming Challenges: Vancouver’s Sex Worker Movement. In E. van der Meulen, E. Durisin & V. Love (Eds.), Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy and Research on Sex Work in Canada (pp. 130-146). Vancouver: UBC Press.
- Clamen, J., Gillies, K., & Salah, T. (2013). Working for Change: Sex Workers in the Union Struggle. In E. van der Meulen, E. Durisin & V. Love (Eds.), Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy and Research on Sex Work in Canada (pp. 113-129). Vancouver: UBC Press.
(Neither of these two are online, but there is a good, if somewhat longer, history of the Canadian sex workers’ rights movement in Sarah Beers’ dissertation here.)