Dirty whores and invisible men: sex work and the public health

Earle, Sarah and Sharp, Keith (2006). Dirty whores and invisible men: sex work and the public health. In: Douglas, Jenny; Earle, Sarah; Handsley, Stephen; Lloyd, Cathy E. and Spurr, Sue eds. A Reader in Promoting Public Health: Challenge and Controversy. UK: Sage, pp. 95–102.

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Sex work transcends gendered and sexual boundaries in that both men and women sell and pay for sex. There are many different forms of ‘sex work’, ranging from sex chat-lines, stripping, table dancing, pornography, indoor and outdoor sex work, and all other forms of sexual exchange. There is also a growing volume of literature on other forms of sex work, including that which is coerced or involving children. However, in spite of the varied nature of sex work, it is the female sex worker who has been the most visible within lay, medical, legal and religious discourses and it is she, on the whole, who has been considered deviant. The men who pay for sex – the punters - have largely remained invisible. This chapter considers the regulation of female sexuality and the visibility of female sex workers within some of these discourses. It also considers the absence of punters from social research and reflects on the consequences of this imbalance for the public health.

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