I was forwarded the following by Rossie Campbell at the UKNSWP.
It is a link to Sexualities Journal Special Edition on LGBTQ sex work. Many of the readers may be interested in acquiring the journal “Sexualities” .
I have also very kindly had links to research papers forwarded which readers may find of interest.
Permission has been granted for their publication. I have included the abstracts and links to the full papers after this introduction to the special edition of the “Sexualities Journal.”
outside the (hetero)norm?
Lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender and queer
(LGBTQ) sex work
Nicola J Smith
University of Birmingham, UK
Northumbria University, UK
Recent scholarship on sex work has highlighted the diversiﬁcation of the sex industry under late capitalism. There is now a wealth of research that interrogates and documents how sex is sold in a plethora of spaces, through multiple mechanisms and by a multitude of actors for diverse reasons (see for instance Agustin, 2007a; Cavalieri, 2011; Kotiswaran, 2010; Sanders, 2006). By exploring the complexities of commercial sex in analytical, empirical and normative terms, this literature has done much to expose and challenge the entrenched polarities – such as those between oppression and liberation, violence and pleasure, and victimhood and agency – that have long underpinned political and philosophical debates surrounding the sale and purchase of sex. For example, commercial sex has been theorised in terms of a wider discourse of ‘intimacy’ and central to this has been an emphasis on how understandings, experiences and performances of intimacy are not ﬁxed but instead change over time and space (see especially Bernstein, 2007; Zelizer, 2011). It is thus surprising that much of this varied scholarship remains focused on the sale of sex by women to men, be it on the street, over the telephone, in a brothel, via escorting, on the internet or through a multiplicity of other means. While these debates are extremely valuable in terms of their academic merit and often in terms of their policy relevance, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) sex work is rarely treated as an object of substantive concern. Although there is undoubtedly an extant literature on men who sell sex to men (see inter alia Aggleton, 1999; Kaye, 2007; Kong, 2009; Logan, 2010; Mai, 2009; Morrison and
Nicola J Smith, University of Birmingham, Department of Political Science and International Studies, Edgbaston
Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgWhitehead, 2007; Padilla, 2007; Whowell, 2010), other embodiments and performances of LGBTQ sex work remain largely unexplored.
The overarching aim of this special issue is to shine a spotlight on LGBTQ sex work and, in so doing, enrich the existing body of scholarship in four speciﬁc ways. First, we hope to contribute to the literature in empirical terms, in particular by
self-consciously broadening the empirical focus beyond that of analyses which, whether explicitly or implicitly, are predicated on the imaginaries of the female worker and male client. The contributions to this special issue cover a whole diversity of empirical case studies – including lesbian exotic dance, male street work, transgender migrant sex work and gay hospitality services – that are drawn from a variety of social and political disciplines such as history, geography, sociology, criminology, and political science. As such, we aim to bring a multidimensional and multidisciplinary voice to debates about the sex industry that moves beyond
preoccupations with commercial sex as a moral issue but rather attempts to document empirically ‘a rich ﬁeld of human activities, all of them operating in complex socio-cultural contexts where the meaning of buying and selling sex is not always the same’ (Agustin, 2007b: 403).
Second, by exploring sex work through the lens of non-normative sexualities, we wish to interrogate the complex ways in which sexuality, intimacy and, importantly, ‘sex itself’ can be performed within the commercial sexual exchange. Our intention here is to broaden the multifarious ways in which ‘sex work’ can be conceptualised, not least withrespect to heteronormativity. For example, in her article ‘Dancing for women: Subverting heteronormativity in a lesbian erotic dance space?’ Katy Pilcher explores how the performance of erotic dance by women for women reinforces and reproduces heteronormative prescriptions for femininity even as it challenges and subverts them. Conversely, in ‘Gay hospitality as desiring labor: Contextualizing transnational sexual labor’, Dana Collins discusses how ‘gay’-identiﬁed hosts in Malate are able to ‘negotiate the exclusionary relations
of gentriﬁcation and neoliberal gay travel’ precisely by constituting themselves as active participants in the production of gay culture. Jody Miller and Andrea Nichol’s paper, ‘Identity, sexuality and commercial sex among Sri Lankan nachchi’, provides an important contribution to the literature on desire and subjectivities in sex work as they explore the nachchi, who are described to be ‘transgender’ and ‘homosexual’. Miller and Nichols explore the sexual desire of the nachchi for men, their need to be desired as men, whist being treated like – but not as – women.
Some of the key themes explored demonstrating the complexity of commercial sex in this context include exploitation, violence and sexual desire through nuanced conceptualisations of gender and sexual encounter.
Third, a key motivation behind the special issue, and a prominent theme to emerge in many of the articles, is that of exposing invisibilities. This allows for a consideration of how and why LGBTQ sex work has tended to be rendered invisible in debates about commercial sex and it also encourages reﬂection on how current debates concerning sexuality, inclusion and exclusion might be reframed in the light of LGBTQ sex working.
In ‘The fractal queerness of non-518 Sexualities 15(5/6)heteronormative migrant sex workers in the UK sex industry’, for instance, Nick Mai notes how the reproduction of heteronormative understandings of gender relations and identities serve to obscure the diversity of migrant sex workers’ experiences and identities, including those of ‘non-heteronormative people’.
Drawing on in-depth interviews with male and transgendered people working as migrant workers in London’s sex industry, Mai discusses the complexity of their life and work experiences as they seek to navigate the queer, homonormative and
heteronormative worlds that they traverse through migration. Similarly, in ‘Body issues: The political economy of male sex work’, Nicola Smith highlights the crucial contribution that feminist scholarship on global sexual economies has made to the study of globalisation and capitalism, but points to continued gaps and silences surrounding the existence, experiences and status of male and transgender sex workers. She then oﬀers an example of feminist political economy research on male sex work through discussion of her qualitative ﬁeldwork with men working as gay escorts in San Francisco.
Fourth, this special issue oﬀers comment on the impact of formal and informal regulatory and punitive actions taken by communities and oﬃcial bodies in areas of outdoor sex work. In Becki Ross’ and Rachael Sullivan’s incisive historical article ‘Tracing lines of horizontal hostility:
How sex workers and gay activists battled for space, voice, and belonging in Vancouver, 1975–1985’ there is a discussion of the historical decimation of street beats in downtown Vancouver by local anti-prostitution campaigners. The article demonstrates the lack of cultural, political and social capital felt by street-involved sex workers as they were unable to ﬁght back against the homonomative, masculine and neo-liberal politics at play in a gentrifying neighbourhood. Conversely in ‘Walking the beat and doing business:
exploring spaces of male sex work and public sex’ Atkins and Laing explore a space of sex work which also operates as an area used by men for public sex. They oﬀer a richly empirical conceptual analysis of how ‘beat’ spaces are created, exist and dissipate through embodied peripatetic and sexual practices.
With these four threads running through the special issue, we very much hope that it will be of interest not only to scholars who are speciﬁcally interested in commercial sex but also to a wider interdisciplinary audience, as the contributions featured consider the overarching themes of (in)visibilities, regulation, practice, sexualities in the city, spatial control, inclusion, exclusion, embodiment and sexual citizenship. We would very much like to thank Sexualities – and, in particular, Ken Plummer and Agnes Skamballis – for making this project possible, and
special thanks must of course go both to the contributors themselves and to the colleagues who gave up their valuable time to act as referees for the articles included.
Nicola J. Smith would particularly like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for supporting this
Papers and Abstracts:
Sexualities 2012 15: 622
Michael Atkins and Mary Laing
and public sex
Walking the beat and doing business: Exploring spaces of male sex work
This article draws on two research projects to explore how spaces of public male sex
work come into being through commercial and public sexual practices. Utilizing a
blended methodology of ethnography, participant observation, interview materials,
map making and photography, the article explores an area known for commercial and
non-commercial sexual encounters between men in a city in the UK. It makes conceptual arguments about the material and discursive significance of walking in the making,
and continued existence of ‘red light district’ spaces. Specifically, we will look at how
men engaged in sex work (those described to be ‘doing business’) and other men
seeking non-commercial sexual liaisons recognize the potential for sexual encounters
in the space through environmental and embodied signifiers. We also discuss how
patterns of walking and waiting mediated by this reading of the environment contribute
to the emergence and persistence of a ‘beat’ space
Sexualities 2012 15: 538
Gay hospitality as desiring labor: Contextualizing transnational sexual labor
This critical ethnographic research explores gay hospitality as a ‘testimony of desire’ by
working-class and ‘gay’-identified Filipino sexual laborers who ‘work’ as companions for
foreign tourists in a gentrifying tourism district, Malate, the Philippines. I analyze gay
hospitality as informal sexual labor by applying the concept of identity work, which
involves hosts’ construction and maintenance of their ‘gay’ identity and connection to
urban place. I argue that their testimonies of desire are subaltern development discourses, which speak to significant lived experiences of work and place and, which offer
alternative configurations of identity, relationships, and economic exchange.
Sexualities 2012 15: 570
The fractal queerness of non-heteronormative migrants working in the UK
Contemporary debates on migration and the sex industry have been characterized by a
marked emphasis on the extent of trafficking and exploitation of migrant women in
heterosexist contexts and relationships. Migrant sex workers’ complex understandings
of exploitation and advantage have been reductively manipulated into a heteronormative dichotomy between free (male) migrants and (female) coerced victims. In the process, non-heteronormative migrant sex workers’ experiences of advantage and
exploitation were neglected. This article draws on original research material and
findings about the specific life and work trajectories of non-heteronormative people
working in the UK sex industry. It focuses on the way they understand the opportunities and predicaments posed by the homonormative and heteronormative worlds
they ambivalently reproduce and challenge by migrating and working in the global
Sexualities 2012 15: 554
Jody Miller and Andrea Nichols
Identity, sexuality and commercial sex among Sri Lankan nachchi
This study investigates the complex and contradictory ways in which gender identity,
sexuality, and desire are configured in nachchi understandings of their lives in Sri Lanka.
Nachchi was an insider term used by a group of sex workers best conceptualized using
western understandings as both transgender and homosexual: nachchi celebrate their
feminine gendered subjectivity, but also embrace key facets of their biological ‘maleness,’
and are ardent in their sexual desire for men. We examine the relationships between
nachchi gender and sexual subjectivities, including how they compare and distinguish
themselves from women and men. Particularly in the context of transactional sexual
exchanges, we investigate the intersections of economics, desire, stigma and exploitation in shaping nachchi experiences.
Sexualities 2012 15: 521
Dancing for women: Subverting heteronormativity in a lesbian erotic dance
This article utilises participant observation, interview and collaborative visual data,
collected with women erotic dancers, management and customers, to ascertain how
far heteronormativity is subverted in a UK lesbian leisure space, Lippy (the name is a
pseudonym), which provides erotic dance for women customers. The potential for
a female ‘gaze’, the ‘normativity’ of gendered and sexualised bodies, and the notion
of a ‘women’s space’ are taken as areas for analysis. Women’s engagement with erotic
dance is complex, and this article examines the connections between sexual agency and
gendered power relations, questioning how far women can exercise autonomous sexual
expression in commercial sexual encounters.
Sexualities 2012 15: 604
Becki Ross and Rachael Sullivan
battled for space, voice, and belonging in Vancouver, 1975 −1985
Tracing lines of horizontal hostility: How sex workers and gay activists
In the mid-1970s, indoor sex workers were pushed outdoors onto the streets of
Vancouver’s emergent gay West End, where a small stroll had operated for several
years. While some gay activists contemplated solidarity with diversely gendered
and racialized sex workers, others galvanized a campaign, alongside business owners,
realtors, police, city councillors, and politicians to expel prostitution from their largely
white, middle-class enclave. Sex workers commanded inadequate capital to thwart
the anti-vice, neo-liberal lobby. Instead, an assimilationist, homonormative gay politics
played out on the backs of an even more vulnerable and stigmatized sexual minority –
the majority of whom were low-income, street-involved women, men, and maleto-female (MTF) transsexuals of colour.
Sexualities 2012 15: 586
Nicola J Smith
Body issues: The political economy of male sex work
The analysis of global sexual economies has emerged as an important part of a wider
feminist project to re-imagine the boundaries of what constitutes the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of globalisation and capitalism. Emphasising the importance of such an agenda, the
article argues that continued understandings of commercial sex as ‘women’s work’ place
male and transgender bodies on the outside rather than the inside of the analysis of
global sexual economies. Highlighting the need to address this gap in contemporary
theorising and empirical analysis, the article then offers an illustration of research into
male sex work through discussion of how male escorts in San Francisco negotiate the
complex meanings and practices surrounding gender, sexuality and political economy
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