Sex Work Matters

Exploring Money, Power, and Intimacy in the Sex Industry

Edited by Melissa Hope Ditmore, Antonia Levy, and Alys Willman


Contains essays on the economics and sociology of sex work. From insights by sex workers on how they handle money, intimate relationships and daily harassment by police, to the experience of male and transgender sex work, this book offers theoretical discussions as well empirical case studies, providing ways to link theory with lived experiences.
Sex Work Matters brings together sex workers, scholars and activists to present pioneering essays on the economics and sociology of sex work. From insights by sex workers on how they handle money, intimate relationships and daily harassment by the police, to the experience of male and transgender sex work, this fascinating and original book offers new theoretical frameworks for understanding the sex industry.

The result is a vital new contribution to sex-worker rights that explores the topic in new ways, especially its cultural, economic and political dimensions. Readers weary of the sensational and often salacious treatment of the sex industry in the media and literature will find Sex Work Matters refreshing.

Author Bio

Melissa Hope Ditmore is a post-doctoral fellow at NDRI. She has investigated ethics in research, the effects of police raids on sex workers and trafficked persons, and violence against sex workers. She is an author on the three reports produced by the Sex Workers Project. Melissa Ditmore has written about sex work, migration and trafficking for The Lancet and SIECUS Report. She is a contributor to Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered (2005) and The Affective Turn (2007.)

Antonia Levy is a member of the PapertigerTV collective and a part-timer organizer for her union, the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY. She has been co-chair of several academic/activist conferences and workshops, including Sex Work Matters: Beyond Divides and the Second Annual Feminist Pedagogy Conference.

Alys Willman is a feminist economist specializing in gender, violence and illicit markets. She is the author of What's Money Got to Do With It? (2009) and numerous articles in both academic and grassroots publications. She has produced a documentary Mateando en la Gran Manzana on Argentine immigration to New York. Alys Willman has worked in a dozen countries throughout Latin America with NGOs, the United Nations and the World Bank. She holds a doctorate in Urban and Public Policy from The New School University in New York.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Beyond the Sex in Sex Work - Alys Willman and Antonia Levy
  • Part I: Beyond Divides: New Frameworks for Understanding the Sex Industry
    • 1. Sex Work Now: What the Blurring Boundaries around the Sex Industry Means for Sex Work, Research and Activism - Barbara G. Brents and Kathryn Hausbeck
    • 2. The (Crying) Need for Different Kinds of Research - Laura Agustín
    • 3. The Meaning of the Whore: How Feminist Theories on Prostitution Shape Research on Female Sex Workers - Juline A. Koken
  • Part II: Managing Multiple Roles
    • 4. To Love, Honour, and Strip: An Investigation of Exotic Dancer Romantic Relationships - Mindy S. Bradley-Engen and Carrie M. Hobbs
    • 5. Sex and the Unspoken in Male Street Prostitution - Kerwin Kaye
    • 6. enforced ab/normalcy: the sexworker hijras and the (re)appropriation of s/he identity - Mashrur Shahid Hossain
  • Part III: Money and Sex
    • 7. Let's Talk About Money - Alys Willman
    • 8. Show Me the Money: A Sex Worker Reflects on Research into the Sex Industry - Jo Weldon
    • 9. Selling Sex: Women's Participation in the Sex Industry - Melissa Petro
  • Part IV: Sex Work and the State
    • 10. Pimping the Pueblo: State Regulated Commercial Sex in Neoliberal Mexico - Patty Kelly
    • 11. Deviant Girls, Small-Scale Entrepreneurs and the Regulation of German Sex Workers - Anne Dölemeyer, Rebecca Pates, Daniel Schmidt
    • 12. Sex Work, Communities and Public Policy in the UK - Maggie O'Neill and Jane Pitcher
  • Part V: Organizing Beyond Divides
    • 13. Sex Workers' Rights Activism in Europe: Orientations from Brussels - Giulia Garofalo
  • Conclusion: Pushing Boundaries in Sex Work Activism and Research - Melissa Ditmore


'Sex Work Matters is destined to become a classic in its field, offering fresh new perspectives on romantic and economic taboos in the lives of sex workers. The future of research on erotic commerce depends on these powerful voices, informed arguments and timeless ideas.'
Tracy Quan, author of Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl and Diary of a Jetsetting Call Girl

'Sex Work Matters digs deep into the unexpected ways that sexual commerce is embedded in the global pleasure and leisure industries. It's an essential guide for anyone intrigued by how sex work is moving beyond the margins and into the center of the public square.'
Melissa Gira Grant, $pread magazine,,

'This book makes a major contribution to understanding the everyday lives, experiences and perspectives of sex workers. It offers a rich body of evidence that shatters the myths that have gained purchase in policy debates in the UK and elsewhere. It should be essential reading for everyone working in this field - academics, practitioners and policy makers alike.'
Andrea Cornwall

'Ditmore et al. have put together a thought-provoking collection, showcasing provocative essays from sex workers and academics. The book eloquently makes the case for the need for activist and academic collaboration in sex work research, and answers that challenge with brilliance and brio. The gauntlet has well and truly been thrown down.'
Jo Doezema, author of Sex Slaves and Discourse Masters


Publication Date: 22 April 2010
288 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781848134348
Hardback: 9781848134331
eBook ePub: 9781848138407
eBook PDF: 9781848134355
eBook Kindle: 9781780327228

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