1st Edition

Histories of Sex Work Around the World

Edited By Catherine Phipps Copyright 2025
    272 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book offers snapshots of sex work in global history, examining how it has differed in different places around the world at different points in time. Focusing on certain moments in certain places and examinations of historical lives, it offers a diverse approach with a heavy focus on lived experience to see what selling sex was like instead of what it ‘meant’. Therefore, this book aims to argue that selling sex has been different at different times and present the diversity of experience in sex work throughout history, through studies and comparisons of these studies.

    Aimed for students, scholars, and general readers alike, Histories of Sex Work Around the World provides an introduction to the history of sex work within a global perspective. The case studies cover a wide range of topics and geographical regions – from North America to Mexico City to Vietnam, spanning across 12 different countries and over 400 years of history, before considering the future of sex work in the internet age.  

    Furthermore, this book features chapters with personal accounts from writers with experience selling sex, managing a brothel, or working as a dancer. It also includes a foreword from renowned writer and historian Julia Laite, author of bestselling book The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey.

    Preface by Julia Laite

    List of Contributors




    Chapter 1

    “These unfortunate women”: Sex Workers’ Responses to Violence in Late Sixteenth-Century Seville.

    Clare Burgess

    Chapter 2

    Sex Magic, Sex Work: The Gendered Labor of Maria de Rivera and Isabel de Montoya in Puebla, Mexico in the Mid-Seventeenth Century

    Amanda Summers

    Chapter 3

    Trans Sex Work in Colonial North America: A Herstory

    Jamey Jesperson

    Chapter 4

    Prostitution in Eighteenth Century France

    Nina Kushner

    Chapter 5

    Streetwalking and the city: un/gendering public spaces and counter-mapping Oxford and Cambridge.

    Olivia Durand

    Chapter 6

    “Free me from this place of debauchery”: Voices, Agency and Sex Work in French Colonial Morocco

    Catherine Phipps

    Chapter 7

    “A Constant Influx of Men, Day and Night”: Sex Trafficking and French Military Prostitution During the First Vietnam War (1946-54)

    Marie Robin

    Chapter 8

    Selling Bodies in the Age of the Flesh: Bodies, Dance, and Postwar Japan

    Alice Baldock

    Chapter 9

    Inside the Czech Sex Industry: Prostitution from 1948 to Today

    Kateřina Šteklová

    Chapter 10

    Take a Picture, It Lasts Longer: Sex and the Selfie

    Camille Waring

    Chapter 11

    Tracing Historical Disruptions in the Sex Worker Rights Movement in Late Colonial and Postcolonial India through Testimonies from within the Community

    Shriya Patnaik

    Chapter 12

    Global Sex Work in the 20th-Century Gig Economy: Empowering Adult Content Creators through Labour Recognition

    Rebecca Rose Nocella


    Catherine Phipps is a lecturer in the History of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Bristol. Her research examines colonial and interracial sexuality in the French Empire in North Africa, particularly prostitution and mixed marriages. She has a doctorate from the University of Oxford.