Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work (Jacobin) Paperback – 3 Mar 2014
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Collectively as a society we've got a whole bunch of tangled, warped intuitions and policies towards the exchange of money for sex. Melissa Gira Grant does a remarkable job of rigorously teasing these apart and righteously scrapping those she finds wanting. Her work has been hugely influential in how I think about sex work and outright changed my mind on a number of points. She's a must read. --Chris Hayes
An important contribution to debates around sex and work, and deserves to be read by anyone who wants to get beyond tired and damaging understandings of both. --Nina Power, author of One Dimensional Woman
An informative and extremely worthwhile addition to the existing body of literature on sex work. --Stoya, adult performer and Vice columnist
A persuasive manifesto… Underneath Grant’s strategically inclusive argument lurks a harder political critique of the transformation of politics and economics since the 1970s.
– London Review of Books
About the Author
MELISSA GIRA GRANT is an independent journalist whose work has appeared in Glamour, the Guardian, The Atlantic, Wired and Jezebel. She is also a contributing editor to Jacobin.
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I found it particularly fascinating in that it looks at the attitudes of the general public to the sex industry and asks why sex in marriage is acceptable but paying for sex and receiving payment for it suddenly makes it something shameful for the women who provide the service but not for those who use the service.
I found this an intriguing, thought provoking and down to earth book and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in sociology and the way society in general views certain activities. It is written in an accessible style and can be read by the general reader as well as those studying sociology or gender issues.
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes.
A definite polemic standpoint is advanced: that what prostitutes do is sex work. That is, it's "work" like any other job. Connected to this, the author suggests that sex workers ought to be given the same rights and responsibilities as other forms of work. Yet here's the crux of the problem: workers have a right to not be sexually objectified. No real job exists in which employees have to have sex. If an employee were felt-up, had their breasts groped, or had a penis inserted into their mouth while at work, they'd be able to take legal action! Work isn't sex. And nor is sex a form of work. It is - or ought to be - too personal, too intimate. By warping sexual relations into an occupation, those women involved typically suffer as a result. The vast majority of prostitutes don't want to do what they do. Rather, it's done as a last resort. And often it involves force or the threat of force.
Excellent accounts of first-hand experiences of prostitution can be read in the following books: Paid for: My Journey Through Prostitution and Miss Bangkok: Memoirs of a Thai Prostitute. It's obvious that prostitution is not work. It's a form of abuse, and it causes suffering. To call it 'sex work' is not only to misunderstand both 'sex' and 'work' but it serves to legitimise the continuation of prostitution. For if prostitution is viewed as a job, then it's not seen as involving oppression, exploitation and degradation.
This book imagines prostitution to be something other than what it really is. And, unfortunately, the effort is made to portray 'sex work' as a form of women's liberation - as if it's about gaining greater freedom. The goal of liberation is worthwhile - but prostitution does not emancipate or free women. As such, the author has turned reality on its head - and developed a twisted logic.
In summary, this is a poorly written pamphlet that seeks to advance the absurd argument that prostitution can be a good thing for women. I do not recommend it. If you're interested in reading some fascinating books on the subject then I suggest the following: The Prostitution of Sexuality,The Prostitution of Women and Girls,Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade, although there's none as good as Paid for: My Journey Through Prostitution.