Loughborough University
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Diversity in sexual labour: an occupational study of indoor sex work in Great Britain

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posted on 2015-02-16, 10:16 authored by Jane Pitcher
While there is a considerable body of academic literature on prostitution and sex work, there is relatively little research exploring the working conditions and occupational structures for men and women working in the indoor sex industry. There is a continuing tension between the theoretical position that considers prostitution as gendered exploitation and that which views commercial sex as work, although more recent studies have begun to explore different labour practices in some types of sex work. This thesis moves beyond previous analyses through framing the research theoretically as an occupational study, encompassing the experiences and transitions of female and male sex workers, as well as a small number of transgender participants, and setting these in the context of broader labour market theories and research. Using a qualitative approach, the study considers diverse labour processes and structures in indoor markets and adult sex workers perceptions of the terms and conditions of their work. The research develops an understanding of sex workers agency in relation to state structures, policy frameworks and varied working circumstances. It theorises the relationship of human agency to social stigma and recognition or denial of rights. It extends on existing classifications of pathways into and from sex work and develops typologies incorporating transitions between sub-sectors in the indoor sex industry, as well as temporary and longer-term sex working careers related to varied settings and individual aspirations. While the research identified gendered structures in indoor markets, which reflect those in the broader economy, the findings also contest gender-specific constructions of exploitation and agency through emphasising the diverse experiences of both male and female sex workers. I argue for development of a continuum of agency, which incorporates interlinking concepts such as respect, recognition and economic status and includes both commercial and private intimate relations. I contend that acknowledgement of sexual labour as work is a necessary precondition for recognising sex workers rights and reducing instances of physical and social disrespect. Nonetheless, this is not sufficient to counter social stigma, which is perpetuated by state discourses and policy campaigns which fail to recognise sex workers voices and, in doing so, create new forms of social injustice.





  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Jane Pitcher

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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