Prostitution, Power and Freedom

Julia O'Connell Davidson
Uncovers the economic and political inequalities that underlie the phenomenon of prostitution


Prostitution, Power and Freedom brings new insights to the ongoing debate among scholars, activists, and others on the controversial subject of prostitution. Sociologist Julia O'Connell Davidson's concise, accessibly-written study is based on wide research from various corners of the world. The study employs a range of theoretical analyses and argues against simplistic explanations of the prostitution phenomenon, showing it to be a complex relationship where economics, power relations, gender, age, class, and "choice" intersect.

The author has conducted an impressive amount of research in nine countries, including conversations with male and female sex tourists, adult and child prostitutes, procurers, and clients. Through her research, O'Connell Davidson demonstrates the complexity of prostitution, arguing that it is not simply an effect of male oppression and violence or insatiable sexual needs, nor is it an unproblematic economic encounter. The book provides a sophisticated explanation of the economic and political inequalities underlying prostitution, but also shows that while prostitution necessarily implies certain freedoms for the clients, the amount of freedom experienced by individual prostititutes varies greatly.

This highly accessible book will be of great interest to those in gender and women's studies, sexuality and cultural studies, the sociology of work and organizations, and social policy. General readers will also appreciate having new ways of thinking about this age-old social phenomenon.

Julia O'Connell Davidson is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Leicester.

Praise / Awards

  • "O'Connell Davidson tries to steer a steady path through the differing political debates on prostitution, her eye at all times on the most useful strategies for collective political action to reduce the exploitation, abuse, and violence currently endemic to the institution of prostitution and for clarifying the arguments that might force governments and global financial institutions to acknowledge their own responsibility for the ways in which welfare restraint and enforced policies of structural readjustment fuel the worst indignities of prostitution. . . . It can be used as a guide for activists and policy makers attempting to highlight the bleakest aspects of prostitution, while pointing to the immense obstacles in the way of even the smallest reforms. . . . [I]n a world that is becoming more unequal by the day, it is indeed hard not to focus, as this book does, on the constraints and powerlessness that structure the lives of most prostitutes worldwide."
    —Lynne Segal, Middlesex University, American Journal of Sociology

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 240pp.
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  • Hardcover
  • 1999
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-09695-4

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  • $89.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 1999
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06695-7

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  • $33.95 U.S.