Rates, Roses and Donations: Naming Your Price in Sex Work

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 15:03
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Julie HAM, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
The study of payment has remained interestingly under-theorized in sex work research, despite a growing body of scholars employing a labour rights framework to studies of the sex industry. This paper addresses this gap by employing an intersectional lens to analyse workers’ decisions and perspectives on pricing practices in sex work. This is based on an empirical study conducted in 2013-2014 with 65 immigrant, migrant and racialized sex workers in Vancouver, Canada and Melbourne, Australia. Although analyses of pricing practices has been relatively under-examined in the sex work research literature (which has traditionally tended to focus on other topics such as sexual health, laws and regulation, vulnerability and risk, and working conditions), interviews with sex workers revealed decisions about pricing, rates, ‘roses’ and ‘donations’ to be a crucial site for constructing work personas, safety practices, and professional knowledge. Determining one’s prices or rates in the sex industry is not a neutral, market-driven decision for many workers, but are infused with strong ideas about safety, character and industry that intersect with ideas about race, class and gender (of both workers and clients). This paper examines these dimensions before concluding with a discussion of the implications for sex work research and sex workers’ rights efforts.