Que(e)r(y)ing violence: sex work as a form of violence against women?
Dr Larissa Sandy1
1University of Nottingham
In recent debates about sex work in Australia, sex work has been constructed as a form of violence against women. While the Victorian government recently announced plans to decriminalize sex work, the framing of sex work as a form of violence against women was evident in the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence, which represented and responded to sex work within this framework, showing how this is also a dominant policy response. The understanding of sex work as a form of violence against women has gained prominence through human trafficking and modern slavery discourse in which sex work is argued to be commercial sexual exploitation, and in particular female sexual exploitation. This paper explores the modern-day re-emergence of this framing in sex worker and trans exclusionary feminist organizations including Collective Shout and recent publications based on ‘survivor stories’ like Prostitution Narratives. The paper aims to challenge heteronormative understandings of violence against women and queering notions of sexual violence and sexual pleasure by exploring of some of the lesser studied aspects of sex work, including queer sex work, BDSM and research with sex workers’ clients. Ultimately, the paper interrogates recent shifts in understanding sex work in Australia, and internationally through the prism of commercial sexual exploitation/violence against women and modern slavery and resultant criminalising frameworks.
Larissa Sandy is an Assistant Professor in Criminology at the University of Nottingham. She has been researching sex work in Australia and the Asia-Pacific for over twenty years. She has published widely on sex work and human trafficking and is the author of Women and sex work in Cambodia: Blood, sweat and tears (2014). Larissa has just completed a large-scale project on the career development needs of sex workers, which included working with a team of sex worker peer researchers on a community needs assessment in Victoria, Australia.