The Subject of Prostitution

Sex Work, Law and Social Theory

By Jane Scoular

© 2016 – Routledge

190 pages

Purchasing Options:
Hardback: 9781904385516
pub: 2015-12-17
Available for pre-order

About the Book

The Subject of Prostitution offers a distinctive analysis of the links between prostitution and social theory in order to advance a critical analysis of the relationship of law to sex work.

Using the lens of social theory to disrupt fixed meanings the book provides an advanced analytical framework through which to understand the complexity and contingencies of sex work in late modernity. The book analyses contemporary citizenship discourse and the law's ability to meet the competing demands of empowerment by sex workers and protection by radical feminists who view prostitution as the epitome of patriarchal sexual and economic relations. Its central focus is the role of law in both structuring and responding to the 'problem of prostitution'. By developing a distinctive constitutive approach to law, the author offers a more advanced analytical framework from which to understand how law matters in contemporary debates and also suggests how law could matter in more imaginative justice reforms. This is particularly pertinent in a period of unprecedented legal reform, both internationally and nationally, as legal norms simultaneously attempt to protect, empower and criminalise parties involved in the purchase of sexual services. The Subject of Prostitution aims to overcome the current aporia in these debates and suggest new ways to engage with the subject and law.

As such, The Subject of Prostitution provides an advanced theoretical resource for policymakers, researchers and activists involved in contemporary struggles over the meanings and place of sex work in late modernity.


'Most debates about regulating prostitution assume that feminists all want to use criminal law to punish male customers and ‘send a message’ that prostitution exploits women. In this important and timely book, Jane Scoular develops an analysis of sex work laws, including anti-trafficking efforts, that is feminist but rejects the use of coercive law. Scoular’s nuanced approach is a breath of fresh air, and should be read both by feminists and by anyone interested in criminal law and criminal justice policy' - Mariana Valverde, University of Toronto, Canada.

Table of Contents

1. The Subject of Prostitution: An Introduction, 2. The prostitute subject as a metaphor of modernity: from sin to social problem 3. The Object of prostitute and the pathological 'punter': Problematising the purchase of sex in the 21st Century 4. The Prostitute as a Right-Bearing Subject 5. Reconstructing the Subject of Prostitution 6. Conclusion: Moving Beyond the Subject of Prostitution

About the Author

Jane Scoular is a Professor in Law, based at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, UK.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General