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Female Sex Work as Deviance

Ronald Weitzer


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Sex work (in this case, involving female workers) refers to sexual services or performances provided in return for material compensation. Examples include pornography, prostitution, stripping, and telephone sex. The most common forms of sex work involve female workers and male customers – which reflects larger, traditional gender relations between men and women. Objectification of women is taken to the extreme in sex work, where the workers are valued almost exclusively for sexual purposes. The existence of commercial sex also provides men with an avenue for reaffirming their masculinity, by satisfying their “need” for sexual stimulation and fantasy or their desire for a certain type of sex with a certain type of woman. The gendered character of the sex industry is also evident in its power structure: most managers are men who exercise control over female workers and reap much of the profit. In general, power is largely concentrated in the hands of pimps, traffickers, and those who run brothels, strip clubs, and companies that produce and distribute. Many people view sex work as deviant behavior. The opinion polls presented in table 1 reveal that the majority of Americans see both prostitution and pornography as immoral; three-quarters believe that we need “stricter laws” to control pornography; and a substantial number want prostitution to remain illegal, strip clubs and massage ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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