Skip to main content

Who rules the game? An investigation of sex-work, gender, agency and the body

Buy Article:

$54.08 plus tax (Refund Policy)


Purpose ‐ Drawing upon notions of agency and the body, the purpose of this paper is to examine the nature of agency as a gendered concept through a consideration of women sex-workers. Specifically, the paper analyses how far women sex-workers may be regarded as social agents. It then considers how far notions of agency, in relation to sex-workers' embodied boundaries, may be gendered. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper reviews existing literature on sex-workers and sex-work practices, looking at indoor sex-work (massage parlours), outdoor sex-work (street sex-work) and trafficking. It considers these types of sex-work in relation to agency, gender and the body. Findings ‐ The paper acknowledges the diversity of women's experience within different aspects of the sex trade. The paper recognizes claims that treating sex-workers as "victims" could further jeopardize their social position. However, the paper finds that the "options" available to sex-workers are severely constrained. Specifically, the lack of capacity among sex-workers to set embodied "rules of engagement" with clients makes the notion of agency problematic. The paper contends that "agency" is itself a gendered concept not only in relation to sex-work, but also in the context of women's work more broadly. Practical implications ‐ Through the idea of agency as a gendered concept, the paper offers alternative ways of exploring agency, the body and women's work. Originality/value ‐ The paper puts forward the notion of agency as a gendered concept. This opens up possibilities for further research on women's "choices", and who "makes the rules" within different labour markets.

Keywords: Gender; Sex; Women workers

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

Access Key

Free Content
Free content
New Content
New content
Open Access Content
Open access content
Partial Open Access Content
Partial Open access content
Subscribed Content
Subscribed content
Free Trial Content
Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more