"Choice" in the globalized sex market : a comparative analysis of decision-making in global sex worker communities
Wilson, Lyndsey Paige
May 9, 2012
Department or Program
Quantitative research documents that a disproportionate number of sex workers are characterized by marginalized gender, race, class, and national identities -- they do not all appear like the glamorous white sex workers in Europe and the United States, but rather may resemble the third-world women in situations of indebtedness in poorly maintained living conditions. This thesis seeks to evaluate the conditions under which individuals make choices and how notions of choice are complicated for women in developing countries due to constraints from macro-level structures, meso-level norms, and micro-level experiences. While many scholars discuss the changing economic and cultural context due to increased interconnectedness and communication among geographically distant localities, few evaluate the ways that these systemic shifts impact the sex industry. This thesis analyzes the effects of globalization that have complicated the notion of choice and asserts a viable theoretical framework to understand how a choice to engage in sex work is made in this global economy. Regardless of the moments of empowerment that sex workers experience, they are nonetheless constrained within a global system of inequality. It is problematic to strip sex workers of their capacity for rational decision-making by rendering them passive victims of circumstance. The conclusion of this thesis, however, is that many global women engaged in sex work have no realistic resources to capitalize on besides their bodies. Moreover, they are powerless to change the structures that contextualize their occupational options. Agency, therefore, is a reaction to the increasingly limited array of options for economic survival as global inequality erodes realistic possibilities for human freedom.