Sex Work/Sex Act: Law, Labor, and Desire in Constructions of Prostitution

Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol. 22, p. 277, 1997

Posted: 16 May 2006  

Noah Zatz

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Abstract

This article develops a feminist theory of prostituion that accounts for its pervasive criminalization. Existing theories tend to reduce prostitution to a form of sexuality or a form of paid work. What is most threatening about commercial sex, however, is its admixture of the erotic and the economic within a single transaction. Criminalization reasserts a divide between market work and personal or familial intimacy both by punishing its crossing and by tying prostitution to illicit sexuality. Prostitution, in its particular institutional forms and cultural significance, is thus in part a product rather than simply an object of criminal law. Therefore, subordinating aspects of contemporary prostitution may best be combatted through decriminizatlion. Moreover, the greatest liberatory potential may flow from articulating prostitution as sex work, where the dignity and protections of labor coexist with intimate relations and where sex acts may not reveal sexual identity.

Keywords: feminist theory of prostituion

Suggested Citation

Zatz, Noah, Sex Work/Sex Act: Law, Labor, and Desire in Constructions of Prostitution. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol. 22, p. 277, 1997. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=902659

Noah Zatz (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

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