Red alert over red light debate

April 18, 1997

THINKING of prostitution as a normal job does not empower the prostituted women, as some sociologists suggest, and could be counter-productive in debates over legalising the practice, researchers at the University of Westminster have argued, writes Phil Baty.

Ruth Swirsky and Celia Jenkins, of the university's Harrow Business School, argued at the BSA conference that those who portray prostitution as an occupation like any other, with its unique skills, structure and conditions, often wrongly assume an element of free-choice and ignore the fact that many prostitutes are forced into the practice.

"The debate over prostitution revolves around issues of choice, the nature of work, gendered power relations, exploitation and violence," the researchers said.

"Drawing on evidence in ethnographic studies of prostitutes, we argue that conceptualising prostitution as work serves in the long run to disempower prostituted women, for whom physical violence and abuse from pimps and punters is common place," they said. It was important to air this view in the political debate about legalising brothels or zoning.

Brunel University's Melissa Friedberg told the conference she had found a link between women who had been in care and prostitution.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns