Sex Workers Unite! A History of the Movement from Stonewall to SlutWalk

Melinda Chateauvert. Beacon, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8070-6139-8
Sex workers are the next marginalized, stigmatized group due for liberation, argues activist and professor Chateauvert. The book combines accounts of labor organizing, cultural activism, civil rights demonstrations, and aid or “harm-reduction” efforts into an uneven history of sex workers’ resistance to their systematic disempowerment by society. The author’s goal is to find “a model of organizing... focused on transformative justice,” but the real obstacles lie in the pervasive “whorephobia,” which subjects sex workers, if not to imprisonment or violence, then to harassment, fear, and shame. According to Chateauvert, the worst perpetrators of whorephobia are police, feminists, and “straights”—those who valorize heterosexual monogamy—who insist on casting all sex workers as criminals or victims, rather than seeing those who pursue such work voluntarily as scrappy survivors. Her portraits of individual activists and advocacy groups are well drawn, proving that humanization through story, not philosophical debates about personhood and privacy, will win this campaign. However, the book would have benefitted from a better argumentative structure, less jargon, and more effective knitting together of claims and evidence, quotes and sources. Yet, while respect might be slow in coming, Chateauvert makes a strong case that “engaging in sexual commerce should not be grounds for disenfranchisement.” (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/14/2013
Release date: 01/07/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 214 pages - 978-0-8070-6140-4
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-8070-6123-7
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