Sex For Sale
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Sex For Sale

Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry

Ronald Weitzer, Ronald Weitzer

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  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Sex For Sale

Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry

Ronald Weitzer, Ronald Weitzer

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À propos de ce livre

This groundbreaking collection of essays on the sex industry contains original studies on sex work, its risks and benefits, and its political implications. Sex for Sale covers areas not commonly researched, including gay and lesbian pornography, telephone sex workers, customers of prostitutes, male and female escorts who work independently, street prostitution, sex tourism, legal prostitution, and strip clubs that cater to women.

Sexfor Sale also tracks various trends during the past decade, including the mainstreaming and growing acceptance of some types of sexual commerce and the growing criminalization of other types, such as sex trafficking. Sex for Sale offers a window into the lived experiences of sex workers as well as an analysis of the larger gender arrangements and political structures that shape the experiences of workers and their clients.

This book contributes greatlyto a growing research literature that documents the rich variation, nuances, and complexities in the exchange of sexual services, performances, and products. This book will change the way we understand sex work.

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Informations

Éditeur
Routledge
Année
2009
ISBN
9781135276720

CHAPTER 1
SEX WORK: PARADIGMS AND POLICIES

Ronald Weitzer


Sex work involves the exchange of sexual services, performances, or products for material compensation. It includes activities of direct physical contact between buyers and sellers (prostitution, lap dancing) as well as indirect sexual stimulation (pornography, stripping, telephone sex, live sex shows, erotic webcam performances). The sex industry refers to the workers, managers, owners, agencies, clubs, trade associations, and marketing involved in sexual commerce, both legal and illegal varieties.

OVERVIEW OF THE SEX INDUSTRY

Sex for sale is a lucrative growth industry. In 2006 alone, Americans spent $13.3 billion on X-rated magazines, videos and DVDs, live sex shows, strip clubs, adult cable shows, computer pornography, and commercial telephone sex.1 Rentals and sales of X-rated films jumped from $75 million in 1985 to $957 million in 2006.2 In just one decade, the number of X-rated films released annually more than doubled, from 5700 in 1995 to 13,588 in 2005.3 There are around 3500 strip clubs in America, and the number has grown over the past two decades.4 In addition to these indicators of legal commercial sex, an unknown amount is spent on prostitution.
A significant percentage of the population buys sexual services and products. In 2002, 34% of American men and 16% of women reported that they had seen an X-rated video in just the past year.5 As of 2000, 21% of the population had visited an Internet pornography site (32% of men, 11% of women).6 The most recent figures on strip club attendance are from 1991, when 11% of the population said they had done so in the past year; fewer people (0.5%) had called a phone sex number in the past year.7 And a significant percentage of American men have visited a prostitute. The General Social Survey reports figures on the number of men who said that they had ever paid for sex—between 15–18% in eight polls from 1991 to 2006 (in 2006, 4% said they had done so in the past year).8 Remarkably similar figures are reported for Australia (16%) and the average within Europe (15%),9 and 11% of British men say they have paid for sex with a prostitute.10 Because prostitution is stigmatized, the real figures may be significantly higher. In some other societies, even more men say they have paid for sex. For example, in Spain 39% of men have done so during their lifetime, and in northeastern Thailand 43% of single men and 50% of married men had visited a prostitute.11 An unusual question was included in a recent British survey: respondents were asked whether they would “consider having sex for money if the amount offered was enough”: 18% of women said yes, as did 36% of men.12
A steady trend is toward the privatization of sexual services and products: porn has migrated from the movie house to the privacy of the viewer’s house. Video, Internet, and cable TV pornography have exploded in popularity, almost totally replacing the adult theaters of decades past. The advent of the telephone sex industry and escort services also has contributed to the privatization of commercial sex. And the Internet has changed the landscape tremendously—providing a wealth of services, information, and connections for interested parties. Internet-facilitated sex work has grown as a sector of the market, while street prostitution has remained relatively stable over time, although it has declined in some areas.13
Despite its size, growth, and numerous customers, the sex industry is regarded by many citizens as a deviant enterprise: run by shady people and promoting immoral or perverted behavior. There has been some “main-streaming” of certain sectors of the sex industry (as documented in Chapter 12 by Lynn Comella), but it would be premature to conclude that sex for sale has now become normalized, as some claim. Polls show that 72% of Americans think that pornography is “an important moral issue for the country,”14 and 61% believe that it leads to a “breakdown of morals.”15 The most recent poll (in March 2008) reported that fully half the population defined viewing porn as “sinful behavior.”16 And almost half the population thinks that pornography is “demeaning towards women” (one-quarter disagreed and the remainder were undecided).17 When asked about the idea of “men spending an evening with a prostitute,” 61% of Americans consider this morally wrong,18 and two-thirds believe that prostitution can “never be justified,” while 25% considered it “sometimes justified” and 4% “always justified.”19 (The term “justified” in this question is somewhat opaque, and we can only speculate as to what respondents have in mind when they say prostitution can “sometimes be justified.”) Two-thirds of the British population believe that “paying for sex exploits women,” and young people are even more likely to hold this opinion: 80% of those aged 18–24.20
Regarding public policies, most Americans favor either more controls or a total ban on certain types of commercial sex. More than three-quarters (77%) of the public think that we need “stricter laws” to control pornography in books and movies,21 and half believe that pornography is “out of control and should be further restricted.”22 In 2006, two-fifths of Americans (39%) felt that pornography should be banned, and this figure has remained about the same for two decades (41% held this view in 1984).23 A huge majority of women (70%) want porn outlawed today, compared to 30% of men.24 Stripping and telephone sex work also carry substantial stigma. Almost half of the American public believes that strip clubs should be illegal, while an even higher number (76%) thought telephone numbers offering sex talk should be illegal.25 Despite these personal opinions, people seem to think that the country is headed in the direction of increasing tolerance. There are no national polls on this question, but a 2002 survey of Alabama residents found that 73% believed that “society as a whole” sees stripping as an occupation for women to be “more acceptable today than ten years ago.”26 Many Alabama residents are dissatisfied with this trend, however. In the same poll, 54% felt that “stripping as an occupation is degrading or demeaning to the women,” and only 24% thought that it was not, with the remainder undecided.
What we have, therefore, is a paradox: a lucrative industry that employs a significant number of workers and attracts many customers but is regarded by many people as deviant and in need of stricter control, if not banned outright. The sex industry continues to be stigmatized, even when it is legal.

COMPETING PARADIGMS

When I mentioned the topic of prostitution to a friend recently, he said, “How disgusting! How could anybody sell themselves?” A few weeks later an acquaintance told me that she thought prostitution was a “woman’s choice, and can be empowering.” These opposing views reflect larger cultural perceptions of prostitution, as well as much popular writing on the topic. Many people are fascinated, entertained, or titillated by sex work; many others see it as degrading, immoral, sexist, or harmful; and yet others hold all these views. Indeed, some prominent people have simultaneously condemned and patronized the sex industry, and have been caught in hypocritical behavior:

  • Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) prosecuted prostitution rings when he served as the state’s Attorney-General, but resigned the governorship in disgrace after it was revealed in March 2008 that he had spent $4300 on an escort employed by the exclusive Emperor’s Club agency. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that he had also been a client of another escort agency, Wicked Models. Prosecutors later determined that Spitzer had paid for sex “on multiple occasions,” yet they declined to press criminal charges against him.27
  • In 2007, Senator David Vitter (R-La) was linked to a Washington, DC, escort agency. He refused to relinquish his Senate seat, but nevertheless issued a public apology: “This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible.” He was also accused of repeatedly visiting a New Orleans brothel in the late 1990s, according to both the madam and one of the prostitutes. Vitter is well known for his conservative, “family values” positions.
  • In 2006, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Rev. Ted Haggard, resigned after revelations that he had frequently paid for sex with a male prostitute and had used methamphetamine with him. The Association claims to represent 30 million evangelical Christians in the United States.
  • In 1988, a prominent television evangelist, Rev. Jimmy Swaggart, resigned his church leadership after photos were released of him with a call girl in a New Orleans hotel (she later appeared on the cover of Penthouse magazine). He continued his television ministry. Three years later, when stopped by a police officer in California for a traffic violation, a prostitute in his car told the officer that Swaggart had propositioned her for sex.
  • In Britain, Anthony Lambton, the Under-Secretary for Defense, resigned in May 1973 after being photographed in bed with a call girl. A few days later, another Cabinet member and the leader of the House of Lords, George Jellicoe, resigned after confessing his own liaisons with call girls, what he called “casual affairs.” Jellicoe had been in Parliament for 68 years, and he and Lambton were members of the Conservative Party.
  • Another member of the British Parliament, Mark Oaten, resigned in 2006 after it was reported that he had a year-long relationship with a male prostitute.
These are just a few of the many examples of public figures who have purchased sex illicitly. And, in addition to political and religious elites, the clients include officials in the criminal justice system, with police chiefs and prosecutors sometimes caught buying sex even as they are obligated to enforce the laws against prostitution.28
The poles of condemnation and normalization are reflected in two paradigms in the social sciences.29 One of these, the oppression paradigm, holds that sex work is a quintessential expression of patriarchal gender relations and male domination. The most prominent advocates of this position go further, claiming that exploitation, subjugation, and violence against women are intrinsic to and ineradicable from sex work—transcending historical time period, national context, and type of sexual commerce.30 These indictments apply equally to pornography, prostitution, stripping, and other commercial sex. The only solution is elimination of the entire sex industry, which is precisely the goal of those who adopt the oppression paradigm.
In addition to these essentialist claims, some writers make generalizations about specific aspects of sex work: that most or all sex workers were physically or sexually abused as children; entered the trade as adolescents, around 13–14 years of age; were tricked or forced into the trade by pimps or traffickers; use or are addicted to drugs; experience routine violence from customers; labor under abysmal working conditions; and desperately want to exit the sex trade.31 These writers often use dramatic language to highlight the plight of workers (“sexual slavery,” “prostituted women,” “paid rape,” “survivors”). “Prostituted” clearly indicates that prostitution is something done to women, not something that can be chosen, and “survivor” implies someone who has escaped a harrowing ordeal. Customers are labeled as “prostitute users,” “batterers,” and “sexual predators.” As shown later, these labels are misnomers when applied to most customers and most sex workers.
Violating a core canon of scientific resear...

Table des matiĂšres

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. List of Tables and Figures
  5. Preface
  6. 1 Sex Work: Paradigms and Policies
  7. PART I: PORNOGRAPHY
  8. PART II: STRIPPING AND TELEPHONE SEX
  9. PART III: PROSTITUTION
  10. PART IV: TRENDS
  11. Contributors
Normes de citation pour Sex For Sale

APA 6 Citation

Weitzer, R. (2009). Sex For Sale (2nd ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/1608864/sex-for-sale-prostitution-pornography-and-the-sex-industry-pdf (Original work published 2009)

Chicago Citation

Weitzer, Ronald. (2009) 2009. Sex For Sale. 2nd ed. Taylor and Francis. https://www.perlego.com/book/1608864/sex-for-sale-prostitution-pornography-and-the-sex-industry-pdf.

Harvard Citation

Weitzer, R. (2009) Sex For Sale. 2nd edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/1608864/sex-for-sale-prostitution-pornography-and-the-sex-industry-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Weitzer, Ronald. Sex For Sale. 2nd ed. Taylor and Francis, 2009. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.