Prostitution: Sex Work, Policy and Politics


Teela Sanders, Maggie O'Neill & Jane Pitcher

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
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    List of Figures

    • 3.1 O'Neill and Campbell (2001) Participatory Action Research Project ‘Safety SoapBox: Sharing our true colours’. Image created by female sex worker.
    • 4.1 Prevention of Grooming Information Card 70
    • 4.2 Trapped, hands all over them, being smacked and hit 70
    • 4.3 The symbols on the cage include statements such as ‘buying me expensive things' 71
    • 6.1 The Red Umbrella symbol of the International Union of Sex Workers 99
    • 6.2 Demonstration about indiscriminate rescues and raids of sex workers. Organized by the voluntary organization Sangram, Maharashtra, India.
    • 9.1 International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers 157
    • 10.1 Image created by a resident whose views on sex workers changed during the course of the project 172

    List of Tables

    • 2.1 Sites of direct sex work 20
    • 2.2 Sites of indirect sex work 20
    • 2.3 Scambler's (2007) ‘Typology of sex work careers' 24
    • 4.1 Sexual Offences Act 2003 56
    • 4.2 Legislation and policy guidance for children under 18 years 62
    • 5.1 A typology of male involvement in buying sex across the lifecourse 80
    • 7.1 The legal regulation of prostitution in Victorian England 115
    • 7.2 Key legislation pertaining to street sex work, England, Wales and Scotland 117
    • 7.3 Summary of contemporary key legislation and policy 119
    • 7.4 Models of controlling prostitution 123
    • 9.1 Relevant international and European instruments 153


    Many thanks to Kate Green for permission to reprint the image on the cover. Images are contributed from the ‘Working Together to Create Change’ participatory action research project, funded by Walsall South Health Action Zone led by Maggie O'Neill and Rosie Campbell in partnership with Walsall Community Arts, Walsall Youth Arts, local support agencies, local residents and local sex workers ( Images reprinted (Figures 3.1, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 10.1) with kind permission of artist Kate Green. The images are a product of the expression and sharing of sex workers and residents, and we thank everyone for their commitment to this art project.

    Maggie and Teela would both like to thank our students, past, and present, who have taken such a keen and critical interest in the sex industry and our own work. We have been privileged to teach our own research and hopefully inspire others. We would particularly like to thank Susan Lopez-Embury for her knowledge and the time and expertise she dedicated to writing parts of Chapter 6. Her continued efforts to work for sex worker rights are an inspiration.

    Finally, but most importantly, the authors would like to thank the sex workers and staff in support projects who have contributed their time, knowledge and views to inform our research over many years.

  • Glossary

    • Arrest referral – usually relating to problem drug users, arrest referral schemes identify problem users as they pass through the criminal justice system and refer them to treatment agencies.
    • ASBO – a civil order made in court for which the police, local authorities and registered landlords can apply. Their aim is to protect neighbourhoods from anti-social behaviour that causes distress and harassment. An ASBO might prohibit a sex worker from entering a specific area. Breach of an order is a criminal offence.
    • Bondage – a sexual practice in which the partners derive additional pleasure through physical restraint or binding.
    • Breast relief – A sexual service which involves the stimulation of the penis by the breasts and/or cleavage.
    • Brothel – a house or establishment used by more than one woman, for the purposes of prostitution. Also known as a massage parlour.
    • Couch testing – ‘testing’ sexual performance to determine suitability for sex work.
    • Court diversion – similar to arrest referral schemes, court diversion schemes have been set up to divert specific groups, mainly sex workers, to services in place of receiving a fine or other penalty for prostitution-related offences. There is usually a minimum condition of engagement, such as two sessions with a support project.
    • Creative consultation – an approach to research and consultation that aims to incorporate the voices and views of communities directly into the process of policymaking and service delivery, through use of participatory arts and participatory action research.
    • Cruising – the activity of seeking and meeting sexual partners in public places.
    • Decriminalization – the removal of criminal penalties relating to adult prostitution.
    • Dodgy punters – dangerous clients. This usually relates to schemes for reporting dangerous/violent clients to projects so that information can be shared with other sex workers to improve their safety and to gather evidence for potential prosecution.
    • Emotional labour – jobs involving emotional labour are those which require face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact and require the worker to produce an emotional state in another person. Typical emotional labour jobs include restaurant workers and flight attendants. The concept was coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild.
    • Escort – a sex worker who works for an agency or independently.
    • Exotic dance – sexualized dance in clubs – usually another term for stripping/striptease dance.
    • Fellatio – oral stimulation of the penis.
    • Gigolo – a professional male escort; a young man living at the expense of an older woman, particularly one to whom he gives sexual favours in return.
    • Grooming – exploitation of a young person or child by an older adult, usually a man, posing as a ‘boyfriend’, who coerces the young person into sexual activity and finally into prostitution.
    • Hand relief – masturbation.
    • Harm minimization – a philosophy of client-centred support that aims to reduce the harms to individuals caused by problems such as drug and alcohol dependency and to promote safer use rather than abstinence. Also used in relation to promoting safer sex.
    • Importuning – soliciting for immoral purposes.
    • Kerb-crawling – driving along slowly with the intention of enticing people into the car, for sexual purposes.
    • Lap dancer – a night club stripper who dances close to clients and sits briefly on their laps.
    • Legalization – making prostitution legal under certain conditions: for example, through use of toleration zones for street prostitution, or through regulation of premises. Legalization is often accompanied by conditions for sex workers, such as compulsory health checks.
    • Loitering – (for prostitutes) in a street or public place for the purposes of prostitution.
    • Maid – a receptionist in a brothel, massage parlour or sauna, who acts as the first point of contact for the client.
    • Needle exchange – a public health programme that allows injecting drug users to exchange used hypodermic needles for new ones in an effort to prevent the spread of infection.
    • Participatory Arts (PA) – Participatory Arts is sometimes referred to as Community Arts. It involves people working with an arts worker or an arts company, to create something new or original around a theme and when used in social research it is used to help participants to express their views creatively. The UK has a long history of using participatory arts as a means of giving a voice to marginalized communities (Webster, 1997, 5 2004).
    • Participatory action research (PAR) – a research methodology that typically enables the participation in the research process of those individuals or groups who are normally the subjects of traditional methods of research.
    • Pimp – a man who lives off the earnings of a prostitute, or who solicits for a prostitute or brothel and is paid for his services.
    • Punter – slang term for a male customer.
    • Receptionistseemaid
    • Regulation – (in relation to sex work) a means of controlling legalized sex industry premises through licensing, where official agencies take control.
    • Rent boy – slang for young male prostitute who works on the street.
    • Sex market – the context in which buying and selling of sex takes place.
    • Sex tourism – travel undertaken to take advantage of the relatively lax laws on prostitution in some countries.
    • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) – infections such as syphilis and chlamydia which are passed on during unprotected sex.
    • Soliciting – (for prostitutes) to make advances in a street or public place for the purposes of prostitution.
    • Tolerance zone – a location specifically designated for street prostitution, sometimes with services on site. Sex workers usually face arrest if they work outside the zone.
    • Trafficking – as distinct from people smuggling (where migrants are seen as willing participants), human trafficking is where the intention behind the facilitation is the exploitation of those migrants when they reach their destination (Home Office, 2004).
    • Travesti – term used to refer to male transvestites who work as sex workers, and appear as women, but do not have gender reassignment surgery.
    • Ugly MugsseeDodgy Punters
    • ‘Whore’ stigma – social stigma attached to sex work as a ‘deviant’ activity or occupation based on a woman's sexuality.
    • Window sex worker – sex workers (usually women) who sit on display behind windows. Found in certain cities, such as Amsterdam.
    • Zoningseetolerance zone


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