SEX WORKERS UNITE by Melinda Chateauvert


A History of the Movement from Stonewall to Slutwalk
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A verbose chronology of the perpetual demonization of prostitution.

“Human rights for sex workers reframes decriminalization,” writes grass-roots sexuality and gender activist Chateauvert (Center for Africana Studies/Univ. of Pennsylvania) in her historical account of sex workers, who, in her opinion, are long overdue to receive universal respect and justice. Combining decades of documentation and personal experience teaching university-level social justice course work, Chateauvert presents her treatise via a rapid-fire avalanche of focal events, key players and historically relevant advocates for social change. Though the direction of the dense chapters is somewhat rudderless, the breadth of the material impressively commemorates the movement’s decadeslong struggle. The author spotlights many historic activist groups, such as ACT UP and anti-entrapment organization COYOTE, then moves on to address the patriarchal resistance and identity politics of the 1970s, AIDS awareness and prevention efforts, and the galvanization of the pornography and sex-for-hire industry toward being recognized as a hyperprofitable, bona fide business. Yet the struggle for legitimate recognition continues, as does the ridicule associated with those who make sex work their livelihood, Chateauvert soberly notes. Negative repercussions of the trade proliferate and manifest in pernicious prejudices like “slut-shaming,” which implies the victim of a sex crime deserved it, and “whorephobia,” a denigrating form of sex panic. While consistently inclusive of all manner of sex-trade workers, the author primarily focuses on the plights of lesbians, the transgendered population and feminists, though she shows a particular disdain for “straight” pro-monogamists and those who believe a prostitute’s self-image is the key to their victimization. Chateauvert examines more contemporary visibility activities, including SlutWalk, a multi-city empowerment event meant to peacefully demand that sex workers be destigmatized and respected as a humane community.  

Overly professorial in tone, yet it sufficiently delivers the importance and impact of sexual equality for all.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8070-6139-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2013


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