The political economy of (female) prostitution : a feminist investigation.
The original impetus for this investigation into prostitution comes from an economic inquiry into one form of work performed largely by women. But as a feminist study, this investigation cannot look simply at the economics of prostitution. Prostitution is both work and sex and an analysis must therefore also explore the question of sexuality, and the nature of sexual relations between men and women. This study seeks to offer a conceptual understanding of prostitution, and in particular, to examine the structural determinants of the sex industry. The analysis is couched within a feminist framework, taking cognisance of the theoretical divisions within feminism itself. The study attempts further to examine the question of policies towards prostitution, an issue which has been brought to the fore by the AIDS pandemic. In so doing, it refers to historical examples of state control of the sex market and draws on feminist challenges to such regulation. These challenges have exposed a fundamental contradiction for feminist praxis between the need both to protect and empower women. In exploring the nature and implications of this contradiction, the investigation looks also at the feminist debate around the censorship of pornography, a debate which highlights the kinds of questions feminists must confront when considering the issue of control. An attempt is made to resolve this contradiction by drawing a distinction between short-term and long-term policies towards prostitution. Although the long-term feminist project is the creation of a society where the structural determinants of the sex market have been eliminated, it is argued that this vision ignores the reality of prostitution and the problems faced by those women who work in the sex industry. Prostitution must be legalised to ensure the rights and protection of prostitutes, but these measures must be complemented by policies that challenge the structural basis of prostitution, and the oppression of women in society in general.