Womens Support Project

Commercial sexual exploitation

This section offers a selection of helpful resources on the main areas of commercial sexual exploitation.  

Download this resource list in pdf format. [384kb]

A. Reading on Prostitution

A1.Child Prostitution

One way street. Retrospectives on child prostitution
By Margaret Melrose, David Barrett & Isabelle Brodie
Pub. The Children’s Society, London, 1999 Interviews with 50 people who became caught up in prostitution as children. They describe how and why they first became involved, and what enabled them to leave or forced them to continue.  Many took up prostitution as a means of survival, but once involved found themselves trapped in a way of life, which was hard to escape. Includes recommendations for the voluntary sector, education and social services, policing and the law.

Anchors in floating lives.
Interventions with young people sexually abused through prostitution
By Margaret Melrose with David Barrett (Ed)
Pub. Russell House Publishing, UK, 2004
Contains historical and literature reviews, an action research model, a model forworking with youngmen, recommendations for future policy and practice.

Whose daughter next?
By Anne Van Meeuwen, Sara Swann, Diana Mcneish and Susan SMEdwards
Pub. Barnardos, London, 1998
This report draws on practice experience to suggest how workers can support young women and help themto find a way out of an abusive experience.Reveals why girls become involved in abuse through prostitution and how difficult it is for themto seek help or escape their abusers.The report also identifies how the law could be usedmore effectively to prosecute themen involved in abuse through prostitution.

A2. Prostitution: Theory, Research and Practice
The Idea of Prostitution
By Sheila Jeffreys
Pub. Spinfex 1997
Sheila Jeffreys argues“prostitution is a choice for themen who abuse, rather than for the prostituted woman”.An important book which explores the questions: is prostitution legitimate work for women, or ismen’s use of prostitution a formof sexual violence?  Highly recommended.

The Industrial Vagina
The political economy of the global sex trade
By Sheila Jeffreys
Pub. Routledge, UK&USA 2009
The industrialisation of prostitution and the sex trade has created amultibilliondollar globalmarket, involvingmillions of women, thatmakes a substantial contribution to national and global economies. The IndustrialVagina examines how prostitution and other aspects of the sex industry havemoved frombeing small-scale, clandestine, and socially despised practices to become very profitable legitimatemarket sectors that are being legalised and decriminalised by governments. Sheila Jeffreys demonstrates how prostitution has been globalised through an examination of:

  • The growth of pornography and its new global reach
  • The boomin adult shops, strip clubs and escort agencies
  • Military prostitution and sexual violence in war
  • Marriage and themail order bride industry
  • The rise in sex tourismand trafficking in women.

She argues that through these practices women’s subordination has been outsourced and that States that legalise this industry are acting as pimps, enablingmale buyers in countries in which women’s equality threatensmale dominance, to buy access to the bodies of women frompoor countries that are paid for their sexual subservience.

Not for Sale. Feminists resisting prostitution and pornography
By Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant (Eds)
Pub. Spinifex Press. Australia. 2004
A collection of essays bymore than thirty writers and activists fromaround the world,many of which detail the reality of prostitution and pornography for those exploited by these systems.Whereas some of the essays look at how activists have challenged these systems, others also explore the challenges they face in the modern day by technological advances and a powerful pro-prostitution/ pornography lobby.

Pimps Up,Ho’s Down
Hip-hops hold on young black women
T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting
Pub. New York University Press, USA. 2007
Sharpley-Whiting, a feminist writer who is amember of the hip-hop generation, interrogates the complexities of young black women’s engagement with a culture that ismasculinist,misogynistic, and frequentlymystifying. Beyond their portrayal in rap lyrics, the display of black women inmusic videos, television, film, fashion, and on the internet is indispensable to themassmedia engineered appeal of hip hop culture, the author argues.And the commercial trafficking in the images and behaviours associated with hip-hop hasmade themappear normal, acceptable and entertaining – both in theUnited States and around the world.  She questions the impacts of hip hop’s increasing alliance with the sex industry, the rise of groupie culture in the hip hop world, the impact of hip hop’s compulsory heterosexual culture on young black women, and the permeation of the hip hop ethos into young black women’s conceptions of love and romance. Its goal is to turn down the volume and amplify the substance of discussions about hip hop culture and to provide a space for young black women’s voices to be heard

Prostitution & feminism.Towards a politics of feeling
ByMaggie O’Neil
Pub. Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, 2001
Explores the theoretical debates on prostitution and the relevance of these to the everyday lived experiences of women working on the streets. Includes personal accounts from women.

Prostitution, power and freedom
By Julia O’Connell Davidson
Pub. Polity Press, UK, 1998
Aims to examine the nature,meaning and consequences of the bonds,which prostitutes enter into with clients and with other third parties, and to consider the power relations,which are associated with and reproduced by these bonds.

Prostitution,Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress
ByMelissa Farley (Ed)
Pub. TheHaworth Press, USA, 2003
Most of the chapters of this book consist of case studies or surveys of prostitutes inmany different countries on six continents.The authors conclude that these women entered prostitution in their teens; were neglected and abused as children; work under conditions that are dangerous, disgusting, and demeaning; lack the economic, educational, or emotional resources to leave their virtual enslavement; are threatened by the law,whether as illegal immigrants or as criminals; use drugs to lessen their emotional pain; and become dependent on
these drugs.The book also indicates that society ismore interested in protecting the health and welfare of clients than of these prostitutes.

Sex Work
A risky business
By Teela Sanders
Pub.Willan Publishing, 2004
This book does not take an anti-prostitution stand but is useful for an understanding of the sex work approach.  The book looks at off street prostitution and the risks women experience and how these affect their personal lives.

Sex work now
Edited by Rose Campbell andMaggie O’Neil
Pub.William Publishing, Devon, UK, 2006
This book does not take an anti-prostitution standpoint.Offers‘an overview of female sex work and policy in theUK.’Very out of step with current government approaches to prostitution.Useful only for increasing awareness of the‘sex work’ approach.

Sex work on the streets: prostitutes and their clients
By NeilMcKeganey&Marina Barnard
Pub. Open University Press, England, 1996
A detailed description of street prostitution, based on work carried out in Glasgow. Includes direct quotes fromwomen working on the streets.

Inside the lives of exotic dancers
By Bernadette Barton
Pub New York University Press, USA, 2006
What kind of woman dances naked formoney? Bernadette C. Barton takes us inside countless strip bars and clubs, fromupscale to back road, as well as those that specialise in lap dancing, table dancing, topless only, or peep shows, to reveal the lives of exotic dancers.Going behind the stage and into the dressing room. Based on over five years of research at clubs around the country, particularly in San Francisco,Hawaii, and Kentucky,“Stripped” offers a rare portrait of not just how dancers get into the business, but what it is like for those who choose to strip year after year.  Through interviews and first-hand observation, Barton recounts why these women began stripping, the initial excitement and financial rewards fromthe work, the dangers of the life – namely, drugs and prostitution – and, inevitably, the difficulties in staying in the business over time, especially for their sexuality and self-esteem.

Tackling street prostitution: towards a holistic approach
Pub. TheHome Office Research Study 279, London, 2004
Presents key findings and recommendations fromthe Crime andDisorder associated with Prostitution Initiative,which was part of the Crime  Reduction Programme (CRP).The Initiative provided seed funding to 11multi-agency pilot projects to address street based prostitutionThe projects were grouped and evaluated by theirmain intervention type into groups: policing and enforcement, protecting young people and providing support to exit.

The wisdom of whores
Bureaucrats, brothels, and the business of AIDS
By Elizabeth Pisani
Pub. Granta Books, London, 2008
Elizabeth Pisani is an epidemiologist whose challenging book presents some very well known arguments on the issue of HIV/AIDS and critiques how different approaches and strategies have failed to address the problem.  The title is meant to convey the variety of sexual experience and the savvy that attaches to it. The book does not focus enough on the role of gender inequality and the absence of female
autonomy in relationships but does yield fascinating insights into the interlocking universe of bureaucrats and sex work andNGOs and ultimately into theAIDS pandemic. There are a number of references to women andmen involved in prostitution and whilst these are not froma feminist perspective, they do highlight the ongoing risks faced by thosemade vulnerable by economic policies.

A3. Prostitution: Trafficking

The Natashas.The new global sex trade
By VictorMalerek
Pub. Vision Paperbacks, London, 2004
Details the tragic lives of women and girls trafficked into the global sex trade. Focuses on Eastern Europe, but also contains information fromEurope, Israel andNorthAmerica.

Poverty and trafficking in human beings.
Astrategy for combating trafficking in human beings through the Swedish
international development cooperation
Pub. Department for Global Development, Sweden, 2003
Sweden is one of the countries that has paid attention to the problem of trafficking in human beings, and has takenmeasures to combat it both at a national level and in other parts of the world. Includes chapters on:The causes of human trafficking;Measures to combat human trafficking; Strategic considerations and priorities.

SexTraffic; Prostitution, crime and exploitation
By PaolaMonzini
Pub. Zed Books London, 2005
Monzini explores traffickers’ exploitation of women and girls through prostitution and connects the women’s vulnerability to failing economic  and legislative systems.Good overview of global situation.

Sex trafficking
Inside the Business ofModern Slavery
By Siddharth Kara
Pub. Columbia University Press, New York, 2009
Every year,millions of women and children are abducted, deceived, seduced, or sold into forced prostitution,made to service hundreds if not thousands of men before being discarded.Generating huge profits for their exploiters, sex slaves formthe backbone of one of the world’smost profitable illicit enterprises, for unlike narcotics,whichmust be grown, harvested, refined, and packaged, the female body requires no such“processing” and can be repeatedly consumed. In this first-of-its-kind journey, Siddharth Kara investigates themechanics of the global sex trafficking business across four continents and takes stock of its devastating human toll. Since first encountering the horrors of sexual  slavery in a Bosnian refugee camp in 1995,Kara has takenmultiple research trips to India, Nepal, Burma, Thailand,Vietnam, theUnited Kingdom, Italy, theNetherlands, Albania,Moldova,Mexico, and theUnited States.

Stopping traffic.
Exploring the extent of, and responses to, trafficking in women for sexual exploitation
By Liz Kelly & Linda Regan
Pub. The Home Office, Police Research Paper 125, London, 2000 This study is primarily based on a survey of police forces, placing this within the wider context of national and international law and policy. It estimates the number of women trafficked into conditions of sexual slavery, explores the ways in which they are trafficked and the responses of all relevant agencies, especially law enforcement agencies, in tackling and preventing such trafficking.

A4. Prostitution:Women’s Experiences

Fiona’s Story: a tragedy of our times
By Irene Ivison
Pub. Virago, London, 1997
A powerful and important book,written by Irene Ivison whose daughter was prostituted andmurdered.Describes her struggle to protect her daughter after she had been‘targeted’ by theman who prostituted her.

Lyn: A story of prostitution
By Lyn Madden & June Levine
Pub. Attic Handbooks, UK, 1993
Lyn Madden worked for twenty years as a prostitute, mostly in Dublin.  Her career ended on the night she watched her lover and pimp, John Cullen, throw a firebomb through the window of Dolores Lynch’s home.Dolores,who had ‘escaped’ from prostitution some years previously, perished along with her elderly mother and aunt.This is a fascinating, devastating, and quite agonisingly touching book.

Memoirs of a sex industry survivor
By Anne Bissell
Pub. Cleopatra International Publishing, USA, 2004
Anne Bissell became involved in prostitution when she was seventeen. She tells the gripping story of how shemanaged to escape the sex industry.

The map of my life
The story of Emma Humphreys
Edited by Julie Bindel and Harriet Wistrich
Pub. Astraia Press, London, 2003
Collection of powerful writing which documents the life of an abused teenager in care who became exploited into prostitution and beaten by her pimp/’boyfriend’ to the point where she was driven to kill him. Includes contributions from Beatrix Campbell, Judith Jones, JulieMcNamara and Rosie Fitzharris.

Motherless. A true story of love and survival
By Karina Shaapman
Pub. JohnMurray, UK, 2007
Karina Schaapman, now a well knownDutch politician, describes how the death of her mother, combined with a neglectful and abusive father, resulted in her becoming involved in the sex industry inAmsterdam.

B. Reading on Pornography

B1. Pornography: Theory, Research and Practice

Pornography:men possessing women
By Andrea Dworkin
Pub. TheWomen’s Press, London, 1981
AndreaDworkin looks at themeaning of pornography, and the power of men in pornography. Shows clearly that the question is not“Does  pornography cause violence against women?”Pornography is violence against women.A very important book.Highly recommended.

Pornography and sexual violence: evidence of the links
Pub. Everywoman, London, 1988
The complete transcript of public hearings on pornography held inMinneapolis in 198 . Looks at the evidence for links between pornography and acts of sexual violence and abuse. Interesting.

Pornography Related Sexual Violence:AReview of the Evidence
By Dr Catherine Itzin
Pub. University of Bradford, 1991
One of a series of very useful papers byDr Itzin, this includes information on sexual violence in the production of pornography, how pornography influences attitudes to women, links between pornography and rape, recent research.

Power surge: sex violence & pornography
By Susan G. Cole
Pub. Second Story Press, Canada, 1995
Cole analyses themany forms of violence against women.“Power Surge” surveys themovement against pornography and sexual violence, its strategies and their usefulness in our times.

Take back the night:women on pornography
By Laura Lederer (Ed)s
Pub.WilliamMorrow and Co Inc. USA, 1980
A collection of articles, interviews, research and calls for action. Includes articles on child pornography, racism, and women’s action against pornography.

Pornography.The production and consumption of inequality
By Gail Dines, Robert Jensen and Ann Russo
Pub. Routledge, New York, 1998
An examination of the politics, production, content and consumption of contemporarymass-market heterosexual pornography,with the aimof  offering an understanding of pornography’s role in the cultural construction of gender, racial and sexual identities and relations.

Pornography.Driving the demand in international sex trafficking
By Captive DaughtersMedia, USA, 2007
A collection of essays which include chapters on;Defining the problem; Economics and the industry; Research on pornography and defining  the harm; Racism, trafficking and pornography;Documenting the cultural phenomenon; Law and enforcement; Setting the activist agenda.

B2. Theory, Reaserch and Practice

Children who don’t speak out: about children being used in child
By Carl Goran Svedin&Kristina Black
Pub. Scandbook, Falun, Sweden, 1996
The researchers interviewed ten children identified fromtheHuddinge (1992) andNorrkoping (199 ) operations whenGerman police seized pornography produced with Swedish children. Looks at the effects of the abuse and the police investigation on the children.

Dangerous Relationships.Pornography,Misogyny and Rape
ByDiana E.H.Russell
Pub. Sage, 1998
An original, powerful, cohesive, compelling, and smart theory of the ways pornography casually promotes sexual abuse”. Includes: defining  pornography; pornography as woman hatred; pornography as a cause of rape.

Getting Off
By Robert Jensen
Pub. South End Press, Cambridge MA, USA, 2007 Robert Jensen launches a powerful critique of mainstreampornography that
promises to reignite one of the fiercest debates in contemporary feminism. At once alarming and thought provoking,GettingOff asks tough but crucial questions about pornography,manhood, and paths toward genuine social justice. 

The Evidence of Pornography.
Related harm and harm-based equality approach to legislating against
pornography without censorship.
Abriefing paper.
By Dr Catherine Itzin
Pub. University of Bradford, 1992 Outlines the evidence of pornography related harm, and a new harmbased legal definition of pornography.

Making Violence Sexy: feminist views on pornography
By Diana E.H. Russell (ed)
Pub. Open University Press, London, 1993
This book presents in Part I testimonies of six different women working in the pornography industry. In Part II fivemore theoretical essays are  presented from men and women. Part III presents the feminist research on pornography and violence against women.The concluding Part IVdescribes various initiatives and actions against pornography.A very interesting and comprehensive book on the  subject.

Pornified:How pornography is transforming our lives, our relationships,
our families
By Pamela Paul
Pub.HenryHolt&Co, USA, 2004
This publication explores the impact of pornography on themen who use it and those around them. Based on the research undertaken by Pamela Paul, in conjunction withHarris Interactive, the book also comprises of a combination of interviews withmen and women and examples of other research.

Pornography and difference
By Berkeley Kaite
Pub. Indiana University Press, USA, 1995
Analyses the visual code of images used in pornography and asks questions about masculinity andmasculine sexuality.

Pornography: women, violence and civil liberties
By Catherine Itzin (Ed)
Pub. Oxford University Press, 1993
A collection of articles on: pornography and power; pornography and evidence of harm; the law; censorship; and civil liberties.Very powerful, and recommended for anyone seeking information on the harmcaused by pornography.

B3. Pornography: Women’s Experiences
How to make love like a porn star. A cautionary tale
By Jenna Jameson with Neil Strauss
Pub.Harper Collins, New York, 2004
The autobiography of Jenna Jameson,who the book labels the‘Queen of Porn’.  Brought up by her father, she describes how“As a teenager drawn into a chaotic world ruled by rape, abuse andmurder…I plunged into a downward spiral of addiction”.The book also covers Jenna’s introduction to pornography and her extensive experience of that industry.


By Principal Films 2001
Running Time 60 mins
A filmabout an English woman, Felicity, who went to Los Angeles to realise a dream of becoming a porn star.  The reality was very different.A harrowing film, but invaluable in highlighting the realities of the industry.

Lilya 4-ever
A film by LukasMoodysson 2002
Running Time 105 mins
Set in a dismal suburb somewhere in the former SovietUnion, this is the story of a teenage girl named Lilya whose best friend is a glue-sniffing street urchin, Volodya, and whosemother has recently run away to live inAmerica, abandoning her. Eager to start a new life, Lilya is excited when her new boyfriend,Andrei, asks her tomove to Sweden with him, but she doesn’t get what she bargained for when she gets there, in this bleak storymired in the gloomof deceit, prostitution, rape and suicide. A difficult, but vitally important,movie.

The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships
Directed and Produced by Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun
Co-Writer and Associate Producer: Robert Wosnitzer
The film features the voices of consumers, critics, and pornography producers and performers and paints both a nuanced and complex portrait of how pleasure and pain, commerce and power, and liberty and responsibility are intertwined in human relations.The film examines the unprecedented role that commercial pornography now occupies inU.S. popular culture and provides a holistic understanding of pornography as it debunks common myths about the genre. The film features interviews with scholars of mass media (GailDines and Robert Jensen), economics (Richard Wolff ), and psychology (Dr.Ana Bridges); writers  on pornography and popular culture (Ariel Levy and Pamela Paul); producers and performers fromthe pornography industry ( John Stagliano, Joanna Angel and Ernest Greene); and a former stripper/porn performer-turned-author (Sarah Katherine Lewis).

Stella DoesTricks
A film by Coky Gledroyc 1996
Running Time 95 mins
One of many prostituted children on the streets of London, Stella is a virtual prisoner of her sleazy, paternalistic pimp, Mr. Peters.Realising that she must make her escape, Stella hooks up with Eddie, a young drug addict, to confront the ghosts of her past and make a clean start. She soon learns, however, that escaping a past such as her own is precarious. Forced to turn one last trick, Stella seizes a perfect opportunity to wreak revenge on her pimp and finally gain freedom.

Mysterious Skin
By Tartan Films 2004
Running Time 101 mins
Two Kansas teenagers, Neil and Brian, share a childhood trauma but their responses are radically different: Neil hustles tricks, while Brian,  who can’t remember what happened, believes he was abducted by aliens and left with “missing time.”As both try to make sense of their lives and Brian struggles to find out the truth,Mysterious Skin builds to an emotional pitch that some viewers will find uncomfortable and others will find liberating.The characters of Neil and Brian have a fullness that lifts Mysterious Skin above most examinations of sexual abuse and trauma.


Latest News

My Mind is free
Theatre performances to mark Anti-Slavery Day

'Money marriages'
Poverty puts girls at risk

SOLD OUT Screen Debate - Month of Action against child sexual abuse
Screening 'The Tale', Weds 26th Sept, Glasgow Film Theatre

Now's the Time
Funding opportunity through the ROSA Justice and Equality Fund

Survivors United: Equally Safe
An event by WISE Women, 18th August

Textsize A A A A