I bought this book thinking that I'd be reading only stories by women in the sex industry. I have always had a fascination with how people begin anything, but especially how women or men cross the line (I don't mean that negatively) and become prostitutes. What this book is, however, is half stories from women in the industry and half academic writings on the plight of prostitutes. Not what I wanted, but still pretty good.The stories, from street prostitutes, call girls, massage parlor workers, and strippers are often quite touching. The women, many of whom are lesbian, I've discovered in this book, choose to become prostitutes, prostitution doesn't choose them. They profess to either enjoy their job or to suffer through it not unlike clockwatchers do. Still, I can't help but read pain between the lines in these women's stories. These women are used -- well used, poorly used -- for others' whims. All of us prostitute ourselves to some end, but these women live short careers. To them, there is no glass ceiling, only plaster and dim lights in dingy rooms.The academic essays supply some fascinating insights into how prostitution started. The authors offer facts about who prostitutes are, where they live, how the law applies to them, and how prostitutes are grouping together for safety and power.This book, an amalgam or heartbreaking stories and academic consideration, is really a college-level reader, but for those of us who didn't study this stuff at school or are simply interested in the way prostitutes live, it still makes for interesting reading.
After the success of the first edition, published in 1987, Sex Work was expanded significantly in the second edition of 1998. Divided into three major parts, the book brings together over fifty writings by prostitutes, dancers, feminists, and social workers on the subject of work in the sex industry. All are strongly pro-prostitution both morally and ethically. A good majority of the writings detail how the industry as a whole has been very good to the workers-particularly financially. Only a few mention any abuse or personal emptiness suffered as a result of the profession. Essays range from straightforward autobiographies to somewhat pornographic, but all are blunt and very honest. The first and longest section of the book, entitled "In the Life", covers the experiences of sex workers mainly in the Americas and Europe. Through very personal first-hand accounts, the women detail how they decided to get into the industry-and the consensus is clearly financial. Together, the writings in this section paint a portrait of the sex industry as a mechanism for unskilled (or unlucky) women's empowerment and self-dependence. In the second section, "Feminism and the Whore Stigmata", three feminist writers undertake the difficult task of defending prostitution and pornography from the charge that they serve to subjugate women, reducing them to objects in the eyes of men. Playing off the words of the workers in the first section, the theme of this section is that these women are, in fact, working to achieve everything the feminist movement stands for: self reliance, strength, and a fight against unfounded stigmatisms. The arguments go on to explain that feminist condemnation of the sex industry is actually bad for women as a whole.Read more ›
Now that I've read, Whores and Other Feminists, Tales from the Clit, Sex for Sale, Out of Bondage, The Lusty Lady, and Brothel, Sex Work gives a personal touch beyond what Whores and Other Feminists has to offer. There is a line of reading that one must read to truly listen to the feminist minority that sex work is part of being a woman. Whether women get paid to have sex or not, all women live with social stigmas attached to them not only by men (police, politicians, and clients) but by women (wives, the feminist majority, and other sex workers). The book explores the good girl/bad girl status of a woman. There is also a lot of question between Madonna/Whore demarcation between women in the sex industry. It answers the question as to where did these women come from. Women in the sex industry are mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. They are friends and co-workers. Sex workers are women who love and women who hate. They enjoy sex and don't enjoy sex. There is political activism and victims of the political process. The very personal accounts read as poems, diary entries, or stories that the reader asks whether it is fact or fiction. Whatever it is, Sex Work explores a world that we all seem to assume we know all about. The sex industry is expansive and limiting, liberating and oppressive. The question now must be asked how can we structure our society so that women aren't labeled for their sexual choices? There are so many women that are defined as prostitute, living under the cloak of legitimacy.
As an activist for sex workers' rights and the decriminalization of prostitution I highly recommend this book for everyone who is interested in a realistic, unbiased portrayal of sex work in North America. The first part of the book consists of first-person accounts of sex workers (escorts, street prostitutes, strippers, adult film actresses, peep show workers, etc.) discussing their experiences--the good and the bad--working in the sex industry. These accounts are followed by an overview of organizations dealing with the issue of prostitution (from the pro-decriminalization organization "Coyote" to the prostitutes-as-victims organization "Whisper") and an excellent discussion of the feminist, racial, religious, political, social, and cultural implications of sex work. Outstanding!