Postgraduate Sex Work Conference 2016

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The 4th Postgraduate Sex Work Conference was held yesterday. It is a joint venture between the Sex Work Research Hub and the Yorkshire Academic Sex Work Consortium.

I blogged about the previous event here.

This is an important event, and I would advise fellow sex work researchers, practitioners and sex workers to follow the above and sign up to mailing lists etc. There are a growing number of researchers in this area, and knowing good practice upon entering the field is essential. We can all learn from one another and there is a great supportive network.

I spent much of the day live-tweeting, and it was great to hear from tweeters during papers, very interactive and evidence of how we can widen participation. Head over to my account @princessjack to see some of the discussions.

The amazing Dr Kate Brown spoke about the Ph.D as starting point, which I blogged about here. This talk was motivational and therapy for myself as final year researcher!

Next up was Menaka Raguparan, PhD Candidate (ABD) Department of Law and Legal Studies Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Menaka flew in for the event. Her paper ‘Ambivalent Identities of Canadian Off Street Sex Workers of Colour: (In)visibility, Passing and Performing’ was very interesting, especially for myself as a wannabe-critical race theorist. Menaka spoke of the intersection of race/gender and class, that whiteness is a currency in the sex industry, and women of colour are treated differently from indigenous women. To manage the stigma of being not white, or not-white-quite, some sex workers resort to plastic surgery such as rhinoplasty to play down their otherness. Other non-white features such as curly hair mean workers constantly self-monitor themselves, keeping a straightening iron in their bag at all times, taking care not to ‘slip’.

This led on nicely to the paper by Raven Bowen. Raven is a Ph.D researcher at Durham University (soon to be York University). Raven’s paper ‘Duality: Examining Issues at the Intersection of Sex Work and Square Work’ gave me a fabulous new expression of ‘square work’ which I will be citing in my thesis.

For me this paper was interesting for several reasons. The amount of money given to Christian-based exiting/diversion programmes, some proposed $20 million, reiterates how religion is combining with abolitionist/ radical feminist ideologies to control and regulate ‘bad’ women. This has given me much thought for my own research and findings.

Raven also showed us a wonderful clip from The Hooker Monologues, Twin Towers. This emphasises the emotional labour of sex work.

The idea of women either having a square job, or being a sex worker, is often presented to us, but many women work both. This confronts stereotypical representations of sex workers stuck in their jobs. This is crucial for designing policy, which is usually rigid on exiting as the goal.

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We had been given some terrifying statistics of the amount of indigenous women going missing in Canada. They are constructed as transient, non-belonging, and in one case, the remains of 67 women were found on a farm.

Amnesty International have a campaign here.

Some of Raven’s publications are listed here:

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Next up was the paper I was very excited to see give my own interests.
Jessica Simpson Ph.D researcher at City University London gave the paper ‘I’m a student not just a stripper’: How University Students Negotiate Sex Work Related Stigma in the UK..

I recently published Between Lap Dancing and Academia: Navigating Stigma and Disgust so it was a very relevant paper to me. I am hoping Jessica and I can work on a project together.

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Jess is in her very early stages, but set the context for student sex work in the UK, and spoke about her research design. Jessica said that the workers she interviewed had ways of distancing themselves from other workers, such as being vocal about their student status. This was a tool of stigma management, to not ‘just’ be a stripper.

Jess is using a longitudinal study to capture narratives over time.

I look forward to seeing Jess’s project develop.

Next up was my friend Laura Jarvis-King of the University of Leeds. ‘The management and negotiation of time in sex worker-client relationships’. I have always been a fan of Laura’s work and approach, she has gone from the focus of space to time, which was very thought provoking.

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Laura argues that intimacy is a commodity and time has become a crucial commodity, we regulate through time and are regulated through time. Laura argued that increasingly sex workers are exposed to the same neoliberal time pressures as other workers, including working longer.

This opened up a discussion on twitter via the live-tweeting.

I am very excited to see where Laura’s work goes.

Next up was the lovely Helen Rand who I enjoyed seeing again. Helen is a Ph.D researcher at Essex University and her paper was ‘You run the show’: Production and consumption of sexual services in the digital era’. I am sure lots of porn scholars will wish to follow Helen. Helen is questioning where the guidelines come from for online sexual service providers, and is interested in the implications of the Obscene Publications Act.

I look forward to hearing more from Helen.

Next up was Rachel Stuart of the University of Kent. Rachel’s paper was ‘Silence of the Cams- The lack of discourse around webcamming’. A necessary and timely paper, Rachel spoke of how cammers have the ability to exclude problematic clients, therefore exerting a heightened level of control.

Next up was Gregory King. (was) University of Greenwich/ Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust with his paper
‘Focusing Foucault’s ‘lens’ on Adult Film Performer’s sexual health within the sexual health setting’. Having a practitioner’s perspective was invaluable and really added to the conference. Using a Foucauldian lens was interesting, looking at the active patient versus the docile body. As a keen follower of medical sociology and medical control, this was a great paper.

Last up was Samuel Hanks of the University of Cardiff with ‘The methodological implications of researching massage parlours in Cardiff’. This was a great paper for thinking about ethical and methodological issues, and the value of being self-reflexive.

I enjoyed every paper and cannot wait for the next one! Such a supportive welcoming atmosphere and I have come away feeling energised and excited to get this Ph.D written up.

Any thoughts? Contact me @princessjack

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