Producing the Acceptable Sex Worker

Producing the Acceptable Sex Worker : An Analysis of Media Representations

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Producing the Acceptable Sex Worker considers how sex work is produced in news media narratives, a site where much of the general public draw their understanding of the industry in the absence of lived interaction with it. Taking New Zealand as a case study, the book considers an emerging discourse of acceptability for some sex workers, primarily those who do low-volume indoor work. Their acceptability is established in comparison with other kinds of sex workers, resulting in a redistribution but not a reduction of stigma. The conditions attached to acceptability reflect persistent anxieties about prostitution: workers who are acceptable must give the impression that the sexual labour of the job is enjoyable and virtually indistinguishable from their personal life, eliding the work involved. Unacceptable workers have existing marginalisations magnified by their association with the industry, with migrant sex workers produced as devious or exploited, and transgender women's involvement with the industry used to deny them the right to public space. The conditions attached to acceptability reveal how neoliberal postfeminist discourses of choice, desire, authenticity, and personal responsibility inform the formation of sex work in the public eye.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 212 pages
  • 160 x 227 x 23mm | 503g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 1538165147
  • 9781538165140
  • 1,114,319

Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgements

Chapter 1: Introduction

Sex and Work

Sex work in New Zealand

Sex work as work

Researcher positionality

Stigma and the Sex Industry

What is stigma?

How is stigma applied to sex work?

How does this stigma affect sex workers?

What approaches exist to resist this stigma?

Sex Work in the News Media

The role of the media

People don't know sex workers, but they watch TV

Media analysis and news media

New Zealand's media landscape

Chapter 2: Objects of Study

Existing Research into Media Representations

Naming the Sex Working Subject

Who Speaks and Who is Spoken About

Discursive Slippage and Questions of Voice

Images and Motifs of Sex Work

Chapter 3: Intertextuality and Responding to Stigma

In/Visibility as Acceptability

Normative Identity Categories and Community

The Sex Worker as Disease Vector

Sex Work and the Assumption of Violence

The Constrained Nature of Intertextual Narratives

Chapter 4: Comparative Acceptability

Cisgender and Transgender Sex Workers: Vulnerable or Vilified

Transgender workers as a physical threat

Transgender workers as a moral contagion

Migrant Sex Workers and Narratives of Economic Scarcity

The early 2010s: the Rugby World Cup and Student Sex Work

Migrant sex workers and trafficking

Migrant sex workers as an economic threat in 2018

Indoor Workers, Work Volume, and Class Position


Chapter 5: Denying Legitimate Labor

Migrant Workers: Deceptive or Exploited

Street-Based Sex Work: Disrupting 'Legitimate Businesses'

Indoor Sex Work: A Conflation of Work and Play

Sex work as temporary or supplementary

Invisible affective labour

Anything But Work

Chapter 6: Neoliberal Discourses of Choice and Pleasure

Sexual Labour, Sexual Pleasure, and the Right 'Choice'

The Un/Availability of Choices

Removing Management from the Picture

Chapter 7: The Making of the Sex Worker, the Remaking of Stigma



Media Texts

About The Author
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Review quote

Producing the Acceptable Sex Worker provides a compelling account of how sex workers are represented and produced in New Zealand media to create the 'accepted' and 'unaccepted' sex worker. Easterbrook-Smith very eloquently argues that racist, classist, transphobic and xenophobic media reporting has functioned to reinforce a 'whorearchy' amongst sex workers through the shifting of stigma. The book is a thought-provoking read from beginning to end and a must-read for all who have an interest in sex work.--Dr. Gillian Abel, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand
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About Gwyn Easterbrook-Smith

Gwyn Easterbrook-Smith is a researcher, lecturer and commentator currently based in Wellington, New Zealand. They have most recently taught at Massey University. They were awarded a PhD in Media Studies from the Victoria University of Wellington in 2018. Their research deals primarily with media representations of the sex industry, with a particular interest in how these operate under New Zealand's legal model of decriminalisation.
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