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Legalizing Sex Work: The Mirage of Sex Worker Autonomy in the Netherlands

Pataki, Kathryn (2020) Legalizing Sex Work: The Mirage of Sex Worker Autonomy in the Netherlands. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The brothel ban in the Netherlands was lifted in 2000. Since then, sex work has been established as a legal industry and occupation for sex workers. However, the strict regulation of the sex industry strips sex workers of their agency. Moreover, liberal and radical feminist theoretical interventions into the sex industry pay insufficient attention to the way sex workers’ experience their work within a legalized industry. In this study, I consider how the legalization of sex work has affected the autonomy of Dutch sex workers. By connecting with two sex workers’ rights organizations in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, I identified and interviewed six sex workers and others closely tied to sex workers’ rights. I find that feminist standpoint theory, which emphasizes the lived experiences of the individuals involved, is the most effective way to understand sex workers’ experiences. While autonomy remains a critical way of theorizing the sex industry, sex workers themselves need to be at the center of the discussion on how their autonomy functions. My interviews suggest that the stigma that sex workers face in society undermines their workplace autonomy. Through political initiatives geared towards the sex industry without sex workers’ interests in mind, the need for a double identity, and the narrative of sex workers as victims of sex trafficking, sex workers’ autonomy is constrained. This research also underscores the importance of taking care when collecting data on the sex industry due to strong social stigma experienced by sex workers.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Pataki, KathrynKAP207@pitt.eduKAP207
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHughes, Melaniehughesm@pitt.eduhughesm
Committee MemberMarkoff, Johnjm2@pitt.edujm2
Committee MemberStaggenborg, Suzannesuzstagg@pitt.edusuzstagg
Date: 8 June 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 30 March 2020
Approval Date: 8 June 2020
Submission Date: 7 April 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 57
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sex, sex work, autonomy, feminism
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 14:55
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2020 14:55


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