1st Edition

Sex Work and Human Dignity Law, Politics and Discourse

By Stewart Cunningham Copyright 2021
    224 Pages
    by Routledge

    224 Pages
    by Routledge

    The notion of human dignity is frequently, yet enigmatically, invoked in legal and political debates on sex work, where many people use it without much elaboration on exactly what they mean by it. Sex Work and Human Dignity: Law, Politics and Discourse sheds light on this enigma, by exploring how dignity-based discourses are used by those who write and talk about prostitution and also what role these discourses may play in shaping wider cultural understandings of sex work and sex workers.

    The book draws on political discourse theory and is international in its scope, with analysis of legal cases, textual sources, and empirical data gathered through interviews with activists from several different countries in the Global North and South. The book traces how the concept of dignity is used in a range of legal and political discourses on sex work and ultimately asks to what extent dignity-based discourses help to advance, or hinder, sex workers’ social inclusion.

    This book will appeal to students and researchers interested in sex work and feminism, as well as those who study human dignity. Its interdisciplinary nature means it will appeal to those working in a range of disciplines, including law, sociology, philosophy, and political theory.

    1. Introduction

    2. Setting the Scene: The Concept of Human Dignity

    3. ‘Dignity Talk’ in Judicial Decisions on Sex Work

    4. The Concept of Dignity in Abolitionist Feminist Discourses

    5. The Concept of Dignity in Sex Worker Rights Discourses

    6. ‘Dignity Talk’ and the Sex Working Subject

    7. Conclusion


    Stewart Cunningham completed his PhD at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. His research interests are focused on the legal regulation of sex work and political activism on sex work law reform.

    "This book is a must-read for everyone interested in the field of sex work. In a field dominated by intense ideological debates, with ‘dignity’ a concept often used cursorily by those on different sides of the debate, this book invites us to think about how this ambiguous concept is deployed in legal and political discourses on sex workers. Through an examination of case-law and qualitative interviews, the author provides thought-provoking commentary on the consequences of ‘dignity talk’ for sex workers."

    Gillian Abel, Professor of Public Health, University of Otago, New Zealand

    "In this nuanced and intelligent work, Stewart Cunningham offers a fascinating account of the various ways in which human dignity is invoked in social, legal and political debates on the subject of sex work. Accessible, relevant and original, this should be essential reading for anyone interested in sex work, political and legal discourse, feminism and philosophy."

    Professor Jane Scoular, Law School, University of Strathclyde, UK

    "This superb, deeply engaged book is the first discursive analysis of how understandings of dignity are used in legal, social, cultural and political discourses on sex work; the role of ‘dignity talk’ in research and practice; how ‘dignity talk’ can facilitate greater social inclusion for sex workers; and wider understandings of sex workers rights, dignity and humanity. Compelling and inspiring, this book will be core reading on my undergraduate and postgraduate modules and essential to my research and practice."

    Maggie O’Neill, Professor in Sociology, Head of the Department of Sociology & Criminology, University College Cork, Ireland