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New publication by Marlene Spanger: Understanding sex for sale

Marlene Spanger has edited an anthology exploring the epistemological field of sex for sale alongside May-Len Skilbrei with contributions from authors from a range of different disciplines.

The book is concerned with how sex for sale is understood in different places, spaces and times and deals with the epistemology of sex work and sex for sale by taken its spatial, temporal and political context into consideration.

The book is interested in how definitions of and unease with prostitution, sex work or sex for sale bring together sex and money. The entanglement between money and sex should in this regard be understood in a variety of different ways rather than being natural definitions taken for granted. The book explores epistemological and ethical issues in the production of knowledge about sex for sale by teasing out some of the dominant ontologies about prostitution by focussing on the relationship between sex and money.  

What prostitution, sex work or sex for sale is interpreted to be is important for why and how policy makers aim to regulate it. The way the phenomenon is classed or racialized and various policies in this regard affects different groups differently. The authors emphasize that prostitution, sex work or sex for sale is not fixed phenomenas, but rather a contingent on contemporary understandings of the intersection between gender, sexuality and money. Therefore, the phenomenon is understood through different ontologies that changes over time and space. The aim with the book is to explore fields which have been under-researched as they are concerned with what prostitution, sex work or sex for sale is, and how it relates to a broader societal issues to do with sexuality, gender, migration and power. 

To illuminate the complexity of the different epistemological positions concerned with the topic, the book is divided into three parts, with a different focus each: The first part "Historically speaking" focusses on how the definitions of prostitution, sex work or sex for sale have changed over time through regulation by the authorities. The second part, "Speaking from experience" presents how sex workers and buyers rework, adjust to, or resists the categorization process and the adjacent control and stigma they are subject to. The third part "Speaking about control" presents some important, definitional issues reflecting the different ways in which governments, the police and service providers define what is and what is not prostitution. A particular part of these discussions is the delineation between prostitution and human trafficking.

Marlene Spangers own contribution to the book "Surveillance of dangerous liaisons through the notion of sex and money" explores how the Danish authorities controlled prostitution from the 1930s to the 1950s. She argues that the policies was then derived from how eugenics articulated the sexually deviant in a medical sense. ‘The female prostitute’ was positioned to be dangerous due to her sexual liaisons and was though to be something that should be surveilled and controlled. In addition, the authorities' regulation of ‘the prostitute’ served as a power tool that was applied not only to women who sold sexual services, but to women in general.

Read more about the book


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