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date: 28 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay discusses the debates about prostitution and sex work in relation to the ‘sex wars’ paradigm, posing questions about its theoretical usefulness in addressing the regulation of commercial sexual activity between adults. The authors map the global trend in accepting the ‘Swedish model’ for managing the sex industry, noting the problems that have resulted with the turn to criminalization that many Western countries have taken in recent years. This ‘turn’ has been influenced significantly by myths about sex trafficking and the belief that all commercial sex is in some ways forced, coerced, or exploitative. The authors discuss the discourses that frame the male client as the ‘offender’ and the female as the ‘victim and offender’. The consequences are reviewed both for individuals engaging in sexual services and for contemporary feminist debates. The human rights perspective can offer useful insights for understanding and regulating sexual behaviour.

Keywords: commercial sex, human rights, prostitution, sex industry, sex work

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