Globalization and Normalization of the Sex Industry

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Globalization can be defined as the progression of the world becoming smaller which strengthens social interactions all over the world as a result of advanced technology and diminishing significance of borders between states (Giddens, 1991; Larsson, 2001). Globalization has also increased the perception of the world as a unity due to the growing dependence between countries (Baylis & Smith, 2001; Robertson, 1992), affecting almost all aspects of the society, such as economics, politics, and cultural. In addition, migration is also one of the most noticeable aspects of globalization: rising numbers of individuals moving within countries and across borders, in search of better job opportunities and lifestyles (International Institute for Environment and Development, 2001). Most migrants worldwide come from developing countries (157 million in 2015), and the majority were living in high-income countries (United Nations, 2016). However, it is not easy to find official jobs, therefore some people, mainly women in this case, are pressured to look for other options such as sex work (Ward & Aral, 2006).

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Sex work can be described as a trade of sexual services for material compensation, including direct physical contact amongst consumers and sellers along with indirect sexual stimulation (Weitzer, 2000). Most sex workers are female but male and transgender can also be in the sex industry, and the limitations of sex work can be unclear, varying between erotic shows without direct physical interaction with the buyer, to high risk unprotected sexual intercourse with many clients (Harcourt & Donovan, 2005). Kinds of sex work vary from street prostitution to indoor prostitution such as escort services, brothel work, massage parlour-related prostitution, bar or casino prostitution, whereas indirect contact includes interactions such as phone sex operation, lap dancing, webcam nude modelling, and pornographic film acting (Harcourt & Donovan, 2005). Since the topic of sex work is rather controversial, there was an argument regarding this issue. An activist for women’s rights, Lenin, stated that socialists should focus on organising women into collectives to transmute workplaces, rather than organising sex workers (Pritchard, 2010). On the other hand, a German socialist, Clara Zetkin debated that the idea of eliminating prostitution is nonsense without the obtainability of well-paid work for women (Pritchard, 2010). Additionally, in the past 30 years the term “sex work” has been used, generally addressing all types of sexual commerce in an attempt to decrease the stigma associated with the term “prostitution” and to express professionalism (Kissil & Davey, 2010). However, the term “sex work” is often considered problematic as it acknowledges that sex work is a form of work, while the word “prostitute” is viewed as a demeaning word used for women who are enforced into offering sex through poverty (Pritchard, 2010).

Sex work is not “work” because it is violence against women and violates human rights. Referring to prostitution as “work” disregards the truth that many women are trafficked into prostitution (O'Connor & Healy, 2006). Bindel (2006) suggested that all women involved in sex work are in danger, and their work will eventually lead to major physical and mental health complications as a consequence. Farley (2003) also argued that the term “sex work” utterly covers up the physical, mental and sexual violence imposed on prostituted individuals. Moreover, she believed that sex work itself is a form of violence, where the customers and pimps are referred to as ‘perpetrators’, in which the pimps are the ones gaining profit (Farley, 2003). They both claimed that women are coerced into sex work and subject to exploitation. For instance, a study done in Canada recorded the mortality rate of prostituted women and girls, which is 40 times higher than the national average (Baldwin, 1992). Although exploitation is acknowledged to occur, such opinions can be disapproved, as they fail to identify that some women go into the sex industry of their own consensus and have independence over their own lifestyles and bodies. This is upheld by liberal feminists such as Chapkis (1997, as cited in Sanders, 2005), who believes that every woman who dives into the sex industry makes a logical choice to enter the industry. On the other hand, it is more complex than merely aspiring to be involved in sex work. Sex workers often go for their way of life for financial and societal motives. They may be deprived, and it is the only path to earn their income (Phoenix, 2000, as cited in Sanders, O'Neill, & Pitcher, 2009). Therefore, it can be argued that despite the fact they decide to subject themselves to the sex industry, there are causes that push them into this option and hold onto the sex industry longer than expected, eventually steering to a form of exploitation.

Supporting prostitution as a “job” normalizes and legitimizes it as an occupation opportunity. In the Netherlands, legalization comes to permitting all sides of the sex industry: the sex workers themselves, the customers, and the pimps who, under the legalization system, are converted into valid sexual entrepreneurs (Raymond, 2003). Brothels, sex clubs, massage parlours and other spots of prostitution activities are also transformed into valid sites where commercial sexual deeds are permitted to thrive rightfully with few limitations under legalization (Cullen-DuPont, 2009). Some people believe that by suggesting legalization or decriminalization of prostitution, it would respect and professionalize the women involved in the sex industry. However, gracing prostitution as an occupation doesn't add dignity to the workers, or the women, in particular, it merely exalts the sex industry (Raymond, 2003). Every so often people are not aware that decriminalization, for instance, means decriminalization of the sex industry entirely and not just the women. In addition, they may not have considered thoroughly about the aftermaths of validating pimps as legal sex entrepreneurs, or the reality that men who pay women for sexual activity are now acknowledged as valid customers of sex (Farley, 2012). It permits a huge amount of “legal” profits for the sex industry and tax incomes for governments produced from the exploitation of sex workers. Higher tax revenue urges the governments to turn a blind eye to the dangers of prostitution and the necessity to make other choices available (Torrey & Dubin, 2003). For the sex industry, greater earning is an encouragement to enlarge the business. Furthermore, legalization of prostitution encourages demands by endorsing the social approval of sexual exploitation (Raymond, 2013). For instance, the sex industry in the Netherlands makes up 5 percent of the country’s economy despite claims saying that legalization would manage the growth of sex industry under control (Daley, 2001). Overall, the sex industry had enlarged 25 percent over the last decade as pimping became legal and brothels were decriminalized in the Netherlands in 2000 (Daley, 2001).

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