I thought I would do a quick post just to highlight a couple of talks I am doing over the next few months. These are both based on my doctoral research, which examined the impacts of massage parlours on the everyday geographies of residential communities in Blackpool.
- Seminar Presentation: Wednesday 17th June – Research in Gender, Language and Sexuality group – County South Seminar Room 2, Lancaster University
“‘Have you seen the state of the prossies?’ Questioning the dirt and disgust rhetoric when evaluating the impacts of sex work on everyday life”.
It is well-documented that sex work is a stigmatised occupation, and, as such, is therefore constructed as problematic for residential communities in many ways. Considered to be contravening heteronormative norms about sex and morality, and attracting a range of criminality and nuisance behaviour (Kantola and Squires 2002; Hubbard et al 2013), it is perhaps no surprise that dirt and disgust discourses are often used to describe prostitution and its impacts on surrounding socio-spatial fabrics. Like dirt (Douglas 1966), prostitution is considered to be a “necessary evil” (Miller 1998) due to its historically-embedded position as one of the oldest occupiers of urban space (Hubbard 2002). It is therefore consistently liminal; never fully included or excluded from society.
As a result, red-light districts represent an exotic “Other” (O’Neill et al 2008; Hubbard 2002) which generate simultaneous feelings of desire and disgust and, consequently, a simultaneous desire to both engage with it and alienate it. Drawing on my ethnographic research with residential communities in close proximity to several massage parlours in Blackpool, this talk will argue that while dirt and disgust rhetoric was very much evident in depictions of the massage parlours by residents, these had a cyclical and fluid nature (Van der Geest 2009). The vehemence in, and type of, language used varied frequently and the lines between desire and disgust also frequently blurred and were (re)made in the socio-spatial fabric. The use of the mundane, everyday lens of the ethnography revealed that this variation, blurredness and fluidity adapted due to the street, the extent to which the parlours were visible and/or ambiguous about the sale of sex, and the norms and orders acting on the participant in question.
- Conference Presentation: 15th-16th September 2015 – Policy and Politics Annual Conference – Marriott Royal Hotel, Bristol
“Turning a blind eye”?: The politics of sex work (in)tolerance in neo-liberal times
The global commodification of sex in neo-liberal economies has provoked a range of moral, social and legal responses from a variety of stakeholders/interest groups. Sex work has generally been constructed, materially and discursively, as a major problem within urban areas and for local communities. Whilst sex work itself is a perfectly legal activity within England, those activities that surround it – solicitation, pimping and brothel-keeping – render the legality of sex work as ambiguous. This ambiguity contributes to an inconsistent approach to the regulation of sex work. Relatedly, the liminal notion of tolerance also contributes to this regulatory ambiguity. Some local authorities “turn a blind eye” to sex work, whilst others use “tactics rather than the law” and purification discourses such as “clean-up campaigns” or “clamp-downs” as a means of justifying strategies to regulate sex work. Such tactics and strategies include: raids on, and the closure of, commercial sex premises, often due to claims that sex workers have been trafficked and/or exploited; displacing street-based sex workers from traditional ‘red light districts’; and restricting the visibility of advertising, and limiting licenses and imposing strict operating conditions on Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEVs). Drawing on research into the regulation of massage parlours in Blackpool, this paper will highlight the legal, political and moral tensions that surround sex work. Moreover, it will be shown that the inconsistent regulatory approaches to sex work merely perpetuate moral panics and generate confusion as to its legal and socio-spatial positioning. More crucially, all of this reinforces the stigmatisation that surrounds sex work and commercial sex premises, and increases the vulnerability of sex workers.
I will do some more blog write-ups after the events. All questions/comments welcome!