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Representing Who? - An analysis and critical discussion of the Sex Workers' Rights Movement in a Danish context

Andersen, Sara Lykke Wondie LU (2013) SIMV21 20131
Graduate School
Abstract
Situated in a polarized debate on prostitution and sex work, this thesis sets out to explore the characteristics of the Sex Workers Rights Movement in a contemporary Danish context. The thesis builds on respectively a critical theoretical and a social constructivist epistemology. It identifies two main opposing approaches to prostitution and sex work in respectably an “anti-prostitution-” and a “pro sex work-” approach.
Advocates of the anti-prostitution approach mainly consist of non sex selling actors, and the striking disagreement to their approach from an organization of sex workers advocating a pro sex work approach motivates the objective of the research. An analysis of the practices and discourses of the Sex Workers Interest... (More)
Situated in a polarized debate on prostitution and sex work, this thesis sets out to explore the characteristics of the Sex Workers Rights Movement in a contemporary Danish context. The thesis builds on respectively a critical theoretical and a social constructivist epistemology. It identifies two main opposing approaches to prostitution and sex work in respectably an “anti-prostitution-” and a “pro sex work-” approach.
Advocates of the anti-prostitution approach mainly consist of non sex selling actors, and the striking disagreement to their approach from an organization of sex workers advocating a pro sex work approach motivates the objective of the research. An analysis of the practices and discourses of the Sex Workers Interest Organization (SIO) is thus provided through interviews with board members of SIO and put into perspective with readings of the Sex Workers in Europe Manifesto. Particularly the organization, resistances, achievements and alliances of SIO is explored. By adding interviews with employees in organizations representing an anti-prostitution approach, the representativity claim of SIO is critically discussed. It is concluded that SIO claims to legitimately represent all sex sellers in their claim for rights and legitimization of sex work. Opposing actors however contest this claim. The thesis discusses SIO's representativity by applying two sets of theoretical framework. The one is of Feminist Standpoint Theory. Within this framework, the fact that SIO consists of sex workers makes it possible to view them as subjugated standpoints having a “privileged partial perspective” which entails the possibility of producing “less false” knowledge. As a consequence of critical discussions of feminist standpoint theory's conception of subjugated standpoint's “privileged partial perspective”, SIO's position is critically examined. This is done with the use of notions of “re-presentativity” and “the subaltern” from Gayatri Spivak's text “Can the Subaltern Speak?”. By accepting the premise of the critique on SIO to be “the privileged few”, SIO is viewed as
re-presenting the group of sex sellers. On these premises, SIO's representativity is found to risk silencing the largely voiceless group of sex sellers they claim to represent. Having shown the complexity of the discussion of SIO's representativity, the thesis concludes that the dilemma of universalism vs. relativism remains a paradox in identity politics such as the Sex Workers' Rights Movement. It is finally concluded that it remains a matter of politics to decide which premises for SIO's representativity are acknowledged. (Less)
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author
Andersen, Sara Lykke Wondie LU
supervisor
organization
course
SIMV21 20131
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
Emancipation., Marginalization, Stigma, Identity Politics, Sexuality, Feminism, Feminist Standpoint Theory, Spivak, Prostitution, Sex work
language
English
id
4006813
date added to LUP
2013-10-10 12:16:24
date last changed
2013-10-10 12:16:24
@misc{4006813,
  abstract     = {Situated in a polarized debate on prostitution and sex work, this thesis sets out to explore the characteristics of the Sex Workers Rights Movement in a contemporary Danish context. The thesis builds on respectively a critical theoretical and a social constructivist epistemology. It identifies two main opposing approaches to prostitution and sex work in respectably an “anti-prostitution-” and a “pro sex work-” approach. 
Advocates of the anti-prostitution approach mainly consist of non sex selling actors, and the striking disagreement to their approach from an organization of sex workers advocating a pro sex work approach motivates the objective of the research. An analysis of the practices and discourses of the Sex Workers Interest Organization (SIO) is thus provided through interviews with board members of SIO and put into perspective with readings of the Sex Workers in Europe Manifesto. Particularly the organization, resistances, achievements and alliances of SIO is explored. By adding interviews with employees in organizations representing an anti-prostitution approach, the representativity claim of SIO is critically discussed. It is concluded that SIO claims to legitimately represent all sex sellers in their claim for rights and legitimization of sex work. Opposing actors however contest this claim. The thesis discusses SIO's representativity by applying two sets of theoretical framework. The one is of Feminist Standpoint Theory. Within this framework, the fact that SIO consists of sex workers makes it possible to view them as subjugated standpoints having a “privileged partial perspective” which entails the possibility of producing “less false” knowledge. As a consequence of critical discussions of feminist standpoint theory's conception of subjugated standpoint's “privileged partial perspective”, SIO's position is critically examined. This is done with the use of notions of “re-presentativity” and “the subaltern” from Gayatri Spivak's text “Can the Subaltern Speak?”. By accepting the premise of the critique on SIO to be “the privileged few”, SIO is viewed as 
re-presenting the group of sex sellers. On these premises, SIO's representativity is found to risk silencing the largely voiceless group of sex sellers they claim to represent. Having shown the complexity of the discussion of SIO's representativity, the thesis concludes that the dilemma of universalism vs. relativism remains a paradox in identity politics such as the Sex Workers' Rights Movement. It is finally concluded that it remains a matter of politics to decide which premises for SIO's representativity are acknowledged.},
  author       = {Andersen, Sara Lykke Wondie},
  keyword      = {Emancipation.,Marginalization,Stigma,Identity Politics,Sexuality,Feminism,Feminist Standpoint Theory,Spivak,Prostitution,Sex work},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Representing Who? - An analysis and critical discussion of the Sex Workers' Rights Movement in a Danish context},
  year         = {2013},
}