Mainstreaming the Sex Industry: Economic Inclusion and Social Ambivalence

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This paper seeks to analyse the expansion of commercial sex through processes of mainstreaming in economic and social institutions. We argue that cultural changes and neo-liberal policies and attitudes have enabled economic mainstreaming, whilst social ambivalence continues to provide the backdrop to a prolific and profitable global industry. We chart the advancement of sexual consumption and sexual service provision in late capitalism before defining the concept of ‘mainstreaming’ applied here. We use the case studies of Las Vegas and Leeds to identify various social and economic dimensions to the mainstreaming process and the ways these play out in law and regulation. While social and economic processes have integrated sexual services into night-time commerce, remaining social ambivalence fuels transgression and marginalization of the industry which in fact assists the mainstreaming process. Finally, we project some implications for gender relations, work, and inequalities as a result of the integration of sexual services into the economy.


Ambivalence--Social aspects; Brothels; Liberalism; Marginality; Social; Prostitutes; Prostitutes--Crimes against; Prostitutes--Social conditions; Prostitution; Prostitution--Law and legislation; Sex and law; Sex discrimination; Sex-oriented businesses; Social institutions


Community-Based Research | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Sociology | Women's Studies


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