Prostitution, sex work, trafficking, and decriminalization are not only contentious feminist issues, but contentious words that have important and complex histories and cultural contexts. This session explores the ‘troubling terms’ associated with female sexual labour and exploitation through a historical, interdisciplinary, and feminist lens to interrogate the genealogy and political work of ‘sex work’, ‘trafficking and modern slavery’, and ‘decriminalization’. Our intention is to pair this session with submissions (by other colleagues) for a ‘lightning round’ on the history of women’s migrant and sexual labour which will complement our explorations of these terms across times and places with in-depth case studies around the world in the twentieth century.
Participants in this panel approach female sexual labor from a range of situated knowledge: some are scholars of transactional or commercial sex, one is a practitioner of sex work and a theorist, two are artists, two are scholar activists. Some have transnational interests, others have worked deeply on localized politics and research.
Questions to be addressed:
1. What are the history and politics of the terms sex work, sex trafficking, and decriminalization?
2. How do these terms enable and/or distort efforts to write histories of sexual labor and sexual exploitation?
Organizer, Judith R. Walkowitz, Johns Hopkins University
Chair, Rachel Schreiber, Parsons School of Design at The New School
Eurydice Aroney, University of Technology, Sydney
Julia Laite, Birkbeck College, University of London
Carol Leigh, Bayswan
Judith R. Walkowitz, Johns Hopkins University