2018, Vol. 21(5–6) 717–729
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Resistance to sex
George Washington University, USA
Stigma is ubiquitous in sex work and is well documented in studies of sex workers. But
rarely have scholars examined the vital question of whether, and if so how, stigma can be
reduced or eliminated from any type of sex work (commercial stripping, pornography,
prostitution, etc.). After a brief review of the issues related to stigma, this Commentary
proposes a set of preconditions for the reduction and, ultimately, elimination of stigma
from sex work.
Commercial stripping, pornography, prostitution, labeling theory, stigma
Stigma is one of the most important problems in sex work. It is omnipresent in
sexual commerce, although its substance and intensity vary somewhat by gender,
by occupational sector, and by national context. Research on sex workers, their
managers, and their clients oﬀers abundant evidence of the harmful consequences
Stigma has been described as an imputation of inferior status to those who have
either a visible discrediting trait (e.g. physical disability) or some perceived moral
defect. Erving Goﬀman deﬁnes stigma as ‘‘an attribute that is deeply discrediting,’’
but what is key is not the attribute itself: instead stigma is a product of a relation-
ship between at least two actors, not something inherent in a type of behavior or
physical condition (Goﬀman, 1963: 3). It applies to entire categories of people
(e.g. gays, drug dealers) as well as to speciﬁc individuals. It is manifested in
public opinion polls, media representations, political discourse, face-to-face
encounters, and the ways in which individuals internalize stereotypes, conceal
their stigmatized identity, and lead double lives.
Professor Ronald Weitzer, Department of Sociology, 801 22nd Street, George Washington University,
Washington DC, 20052, USA.
Goﬀman’s landmark book, Stigma (1963), oﬀers a compelling analysis of key
dimensions of stigma. But the book has a striking deﬁciency: It says almost nothing
about the possibility of resistance (by individuals or collectivities) nor does it con-
sider whether stigma can be reduced or eliminated over time. These lacunae were
mirrored in the original formulations of labeling theory, which ignored the possi-
bility of deﬁance on the part of individuals who are labeled deviant – what John
Kitsuse (1980) later called ‘‘tertiary deviance’’ and Edwin Schur (1980) examined at
the group level in his discussion of ‘‘deviance liberation movements.’’ Goﬀman and
the founders of labeling theory seem to have assumed that once an individual or
category of people had been stigmatized, it is internalized by them and is basically
This stickiness is perhaps a function of the time period when Goﬀman
and the early labeling theorists were writing (1951–1963) insofar as they saw few
examples at that time of resistance by stigmatized individuals or a broader identity
Instead of deﬁance, Goﬀman focuses on the ways in which individuals manage
stigma: concealing it from others (‘‘passing’’ for normal); selectively revealing it to
some conﬁdants (‘‘covering’’); isolating themselves within a group of similarly
stigmatized others; withholding biographical information about themselves; or
otherwise coping with what he called a ‘‘spoiled identity.’’ Stigmatized individuals
are presented as resigned to their devalued status, and their agency consists of
creatively limiting exposure. Another striking feature of Goﬀman’s book is a neg-
lect of the origins and functions of stigma toward particular categories of people –
for instance, the ways in which stigmatization reinforces conventional norms and
promotes dominant interests by legitimizing established power hierarchies (Link
and Phelan, 2001; Schur, 1980). Examination of the structural causes of stigma
might have led Goﬀman to explore the corollary ways in which stigma can be
reduced. Instead, we are left with a rather static analysis, one where individuals
internalize others’ discrediting attributions and cope with them in daily life.
Two prominent literature reviews mention the issue of change, but only in
passing and with skepticism regarding the potential for eroding stigma (Link and
Phelan, 2001; Pescosolido and Martin, 2015). And the few studies that have
examined resistance are largely limited to the individual social-psychological
level (e.g. Thoits, 2011) and ignore the larger question of how stigma can be
reduced or eliminated vis-a
`-vis an entire category of people (exceptions include
Anspach, 1979; De Young, 1988; Estroﬀ et al., 2004; Schur, 1980). A recent
book discusses programs designed to reduce stigma toward the mentally ill, includ-
ing the World Psychiatric Association’s 1996 initiative, Open the Doors Global
Program to Fight Stigma Because of Schizophrenia, and similar national campaigns
(Stuart et al., 2012). Such programs seek to disseminate knowledge, decrease preju-
dice, and end discrimination against those with a mental illness. These programs
have been targeted less at the general public than speciﬁc groups such as youths,
journalists, police, health oﬃcials, and policy makers. Such programs appear to
have had some success in reducing stereotyping among the targeted groups.
718 Sexualities 21(5–6)
Stigma in sexual commerce
The ﬁeld of sex work mirrors the larger scholarly literature in that stigma itself is
rarely problematized. Again, the default is to treat it as an immutable constant, not
a variable, and to assume that it is utopian to imagine its erosion.
Stigma is a universal in the sex work arena: well-documented in research on
pornography, prostitution, and commercial stripping as an obstacle that sex
workers and their associates confront on a regular basis. It varies in intensity,
being generally more severe in prostitution (especially street prostitution) than in
commercial stripping and porn. It varies somewhat by society, with some nations
taking a more tolerant approach than others, although stigma remains an occupa-
tional hazard for sex workers in all nations (Abel and Fitzgerald, 2010; Weitzer,
2012). It is easier for migrant sex workers to shield themselves from the kind of
stigma that is of most concern to them – discovery by family and friends in their
home country – than for domestic workers who live with the daily threat of detec-
tion from people they know (Scambler, 2007). But the black cloud of stigma aﬀects
migrant sex workers as well. And it persists even after a person stops selling sex
(e.g. Sallmann, 2010). Its omnipresence is evident in the ways sex workers lead their
work and personal lives: typically concealing the type of work they do from their
families, acquaintances, neighbors, and even some friends; denying that they are
involved in sexual commerce when asked; using pseudonyms at work and fabricat-
ing personal biographies; and leading double lives in other ways (Abel and
Fitzgerald, 2010; Koken, 2012; Koken et al. 2004; Morrison and Whitehead,
2005; Sanders, 2005). Some analysts may view these techniques as implicit resist-
ance (Sallmann, 2010), but I argue that coping is best seen as a form of stigma
management rather than deﬁance. The few exceptional prostitutes who have ‘‘come
out’’ in public only illustrates that the prevailing coping strategies are those of
passing for normal or very selective disclosure to trusted others.
Associates of sex workers are also stigmatized: their partners, family members,
clients, and third parties who assist or manage them (e.g. Birch 2015; Hammond,
2015). Brothel owners, strip club managers, porn distributors, and other third
parties are often reluctant to reveal the nature of their occupation to strangers.
Individuals involved in illegal enterprises are forced to operate in the black market
or to conceal the source of their income in opening bank accounts, from the tax
authorities, and in other dealings with conventional businesses. But even legal
owners, managers, and other third parties routinely grapple with stigma
(Weitzer, 2012). And ﬁnally, we know that some researchers who study sex work
have been stigmatized – subjected to derogatory comments and unfounded allega-
marginalization from colleagues, altercations at professional meetings, and
an exceptional level of scrutiny by institutional review boards – sometimes resulting
in denial of permission to conduct research on the basis of unfounded presump-
tions about the proposed study (Dewey and Zheng, 2013; Hammond and
Kingston, 2014; Siegel and de Wildt, 2015).
While this literature documents the existence of stigma throughout the sex work
arena, it mirrors Goﬀman by focusing almost entirely on how individuals manage
their tainted identities, rather than inquiring about whether, and if so how, some of
them actively resist expressions of prejudice and outright discrimination in face-to-
face encounters or collectively as members of organizations that seek to change
popular attitudes and public policies. There is a separate research literature on sex
workers’ rights organizations in diﬀerent countries, which documents group-level
struggles for normalization. These organizations are discussed later in the article.
Destigmatization is both an academic and a political issue. Politically, we can
identify a set of practical strategies for ﬁghting stigma, based on the tactics of
deviance liberation movements (Schur, 1980). Academically, we can identify a set
of preconditions for reducing, and ultimately eliminating, stigma from a category
of people. Link and Phelan (2001) point out that such change requires a multifa-
ceted approach, but they say nothing about what these changes might consist of. At
the individual level, resistance by a sex worker may take the following forms:
announcing that he or she had full agency when entering sex work; is currently
in control of his/her working conditions and interactions with clients; deﬁnes the
work as a service profession like any other or as a form of support or therapy for
clients; denial of harm; condemnation of the stigmatizers; or distinguishing their
echelon (e.g. escorting) from what they consider disreputable forms of sex work
(e.g. street prostitution). Evidence of each of these practices is scattered throughout
the literature on sex work but, again, these eﬀorts tend to be conﬁned to the psy-
chological or individual level (e.g. Koken et al., 2004; Morrison and Whitehead,
2005; Sanders, 2005; Thompson and Harred, 1992). Isolated acts of resistance by
individuals may have little or no impact on the wider society, and can also be
dangerous for the resistors if their actions provoke attacks from others.
At the societal level, philosopher Lars Ericsson (1980: 362, 366) writes that
reducing stigma requires allowing prostitution ‘‘to function in a social climate
freed from emotional prejudice... In order to improve prostitution, we must
improve our attitudes toward it.’’ His argument is somewhat limited – neglecting
the crucial question of how to improve societal attitudes – but it does highlight a
central requirement for normalization. Fundamental and widespread attitudinal
change is a necessary, but not suﬃcient, condition for destigmatization. In the
following, I outline some additional preconditions for reducing stigma.
Derogatory names must be erased from public and private discourse for normal-
ization of any stigmatized condition or behavior to occur. As Michel Foucault
observed, power relations are embedded in language, with dominant groups typ-
ically engaging in ‘‘naming and shaming’’ of subordinates. Words such as whore,
720 Sexualities 21(5–6)
hooker, harlot, john, and punter should be replaced with worker, provider, client,
and manager. It should be noted that discredited groups sometimes expropriate
pejorative terms: they may call themselves ‘‘whores’’ or ‘‘johns’’ for purposes of
shock value and to reclaim and invert negative identiﬁers. Examples include the
1985 World Whores Convention in Brussels; the Hookers Ball dance events that
COYOTE sponsored in San Francisco in the 1970s; the magazines Whorezine and
Johnzine published by American sex workers in the 1990s; and Chester Brown’s
(2013) defense of clients in his book Paying For It: A Comic Strip Memoir about
Being a John. It can be argued that those who participate in sexual commerce
should be free to call themselves whatever they wish. But to reduce stigma,
others should cease using derogatory terms because of the asymmetrical power
relationship that their usage reproduces over time.
The mass media
For the most part, there is a negativity bias in mass media representations of sex
work. The news media highlight worst cases of abuse, conﬂate prostitution with
human traﬃcking, and rarely oﬀer a positive (or even neutral) picture of sex work-
ers and their clients. Television newscasts, newspapers, and online news reports
often center on victimization, nuisances, street prostitution, traﬃcking, arrests, or
raids on prostitution ‘‘rings’’ or businesses (Farvid and Glass, 2014;
Hallgrimsdottir et al., 2006; Van Brunschot et al., 2000). News reports and maga-
zine articles seldom oﬀer a contrasting picture, although some prominent outlets
have done so on occasion (e.g. Economist, 2014; Goldberg, 2014). Most documen-
taries also highlight economic exploitation and physical victimization, depicted
with the help of extremely emotive imagery. And the same slanted representations
pervade the entertainment media. Some feature ﬁlms and television shows roman-
ticize sex work, but these are exceptions to the dominant framing as sordid cau-
tionary tales (Campbell, 2006).
Destigmatization requires a more balanced portrayal than what is typically
depicted in the media. For example, documentaries on prostitution can portray a
range of settings, echelons, and workers’ experiences, rather than focusing exclu-
sively on a single type, usually presented disparagingly. By examining radically
diﬀerent arrangements in several nations, the A&E channel’s documentary Red-
Light Districts (1997) and the National Geographic Television documentary
Prostitution (2010) highlight cross-cultural variation – which may help reduce
sweeping, stigmatizing generalizations. CNBC’s documentary Dirty Money: The
Business of High-End Prostitution (2008) and National Geographic’s American
Escort Girls (2014) also contain positive representations of individuals who work
in the escort sector. And the Showtime and ITV2 television series, Secret Diary of a
Call Girl, includes both erotic and routine aspects of escorting in addition to
encounters with a variety of clients, which may also have some normalizing
eﬀect on audience perceptions of the escort sector. The mass media can also be
used as a vehicle for public education, including evidence-based Public Service
Announcements or paid advertisements on television. An example of the latter is
the advertisements placed in the Canadian media by the advocacy group, Stepping
Stone, in 2011 (Griner, 2011). And the Red Umbrella Project has conducted train-
ing sessions for sex workers when they engage with the media, to help them counter
the standard caricatures and better advocate for their rights.
The experience of the gay rights movement shows that the repeal of discriminatory
laws is vitally important but hardly suﬃcient for normalization. This applies to sex
work as well. In places where commercial stripping, pornography production, and
prostitution are legal and regulated by the state, stigma persists, even if in a diluted
form. Gallup polls show that only 29% of Britons (in 2008) and 31% of Americans
(in 2013) think that viewing pornography is ‘‘morally acceptable’’ (Gallup, 2015).
The state of Nevada legalized rural brothels in 1971, but three decades later only a
slim majority of Nevadans (52%) supported retaining this system, and only 35%
endorsed the idea of permitting legal brothels to operate in the city of Las Vegas –
where they are illegal under state law (cited in Weitzer, 2012: 51). Stigma persists
as well in nations that have more recently decriminalized prostitution (e.g.
Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands), although it may be some-
what muted in such places compared to nations where criminalization reigns
In the sex work area we should expect cultural lag in the aftermath of
legal reform: it can take considerable time for social norms to mesh with legal
norms. Decriminalization is a necessary, but not suﬃcient, condition for
The owners and managers of erotic businesses can play an important role in sup-
porting destigmatization and lobbying for rights. The pornography industry in the
USA, for example, has its own advocacy organizations and legal support network
(Voss, 2015). Owners of legal brothels and escort agencies in some countries also
have organizations that advocate not only for their own interests but also for sex
workers to the extent that their interests overlap (Weitzer, 2012).
An important caveat is that some of the interests of business owners may conﬂict
with those of sex workers. The former naturally pursue their economic interests,
which may conﬂict with those of sex workers. They may ﬁnd themselves in align-
ment on some issues – such as ﬁghting what they consider to be unwarranted
regulations – but may be opponents on other issues, such as whether the owners
should be compelled to provide social security beneﬁts to workers. Still, the quest
for destigmatization will be advanced to the extent that owners of erotic businesses
advocate for industry normalization and insofar as industry elites (e.g. Hugh
Hefner, Larry Flynt) publicly support sex workers’ rights and contribute resources
to end legal and social discrimination.
722 Sexualities 21(5–6)
Sex worker activism
Policy change can be a top-down process, orchestrated by the state. Some legisla-
tors have initiated decriminalization bills with little pressure from the beneﬁciaries
(e.g. in Nevada, Czech Republic, Western Australia). But legal change has also
been catalyzed from below – by individuals and organizations. To be successful,
research shows that sex worker rights groups require:
.savvy or charismatic leaders who are able to withstand counterattacks;
.suﬃcient resources (material, personnel);
.connections to media organizations;
.alliances with other organizations and social movements; and
.widespread support from beneﬁciaries (sex workers, clients, business owners).
Sex worker organizations in some countries have enjoyed one or two of these
factors (e.g. a charismatic leader) but not all of them. Such organizations tend
to be grossly under-funded, lack strong leadership, recruit few sex workers as
members, are marginalized by potential allies (women’s organizations, labor
unions), and have few connections to mainstream media (Gall, 2010; Jenness,
1990; Majic, 2014; Mathieu, 2003; Oselin and Weitzer, 2013; Weitzer, 1991;
West, 2000). Sex workers lack solidarity across the sex work hierarchy; many
view their work as temporary, are disinclined to activism; and most perceive
little advantage in unionization, especially if they are self-employed (Gall, 2010;
van der Poel, 1992).
There are important exceptions. The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, for
example, played an instrumental role in the process leading up to parliamentary
decriminalization in 2003, and continues to inﬂuence policy via its permanent seat
on the nation’s Prostitution Law Review Committee, which periodically reviews
policies and practices related to prostitution. Regarding allies, in 1973 America’s
premier women’s rights organization – the National Organization for Women
(NOW) – passed a lengthy decriminalization resolution declaring that NOW
‘‘opposes continued prohibitive laws regarding prostitution, believing them to be
punitive’’ and ‘‘therefore favors removal of all laws relating to the act of prostitu-
tion’’ (NOW, 1973). Such support from an inﬂuential mainstream organization did
little to advance the quest for sex worker rights in the USA (NOW engaged in no
subsequent reform eﬀorts), but this kind of support can nevertheless be considered
vital for destigmatization purposes. Amnesty International, the World Health
Organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the UN’s Global
Commission on HIV and the Law have advocated decriminalization, which if
well publicized, might help to challenge the stigma associated with sex work. In
May 2016, Amnesty International formally endorsed decriminalization as a way of
reducing victimization and marginalization of sex workers. The decision was widely
publicized and is regarded as a major victory for the sex worker community
(Amnesty International, 2016).
Some recent actions illustrate the ways in which sex workers have tried to destig-
matize sex work, in conjunction with other goals. In 2001 a San Francisco organ-
ization that provides health care to sex workers (the St James Inﬁrmary) placed
advertisements on city busses that included photos of sex workers and quotations
intended to challenge stereotypes: ‘‘sex workers rights are human rights,’’ ‘‘sex work
is real work,’’ and ‘‘someone you know is a sex worker’’ (Schreiber, 2015: 256). In
September 2015 the Scottish sex worker organization Scot-Pep launched a proposal
(with Scottish Parliament member Jean Urquhart) for legislation that would decrim-
inalize prostitution, along the lines of New Zealand’s model. The Prostitution Law
Reform (Scotland) Bill challenges the Scottish Government’s current position that
sex work is tantamount to ‘‘commercial sexual exploitation’’ and seeks to repeal the
laws against soliciting, client kerb-crawling, and brothel-keeping. The bill would
permit more than one sex worker to operate within the same premises (current
law restricts this to one worker) and would increase penalties against those who
coerce sex workers. In November 2015 the English Collective of Prostitutes, along
with sex worker rights advocates from other nations, testiﬁed at a special symposium
on decriminalization in the British House of Commons.
Lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of prostitution laws are another strat-
egy pursued by sex worker activists. A major court case of this nature was success-
ful in Canada in 2013, when the Supreme Court ruled the nation’s three
prostitution laws unconstitutional.
A similar legal challenge was recently mounted
in the USA, challenging California’s prostitution laws. Insofar as the public is
aware of these legislative and judicial eﬀorts, as covered in the media, the initiatives
may have some eﬀect in challenging popular misconceptions regarding sex work.
Other recent events move policy in a more repressive direction. Legislation by
the French Parliament is a case in point, with the Assembly and Senate proposing
diﬀerent bills in 2013 and 2015: One would implement the Swedish system of client
criminalization while the other rejects this and would enhance penalties against
prostitutes who solicit on the streets. The client criminalization bill, which passed in
April 2016, was opposed by a variety of organizations and more than 70 French
celebrities, and the vast majority of the French public opposes client criminaliza-
Hundreds of sex workers staged a protest on the streets of Paris condemning
the bill, and one activist (Franceline Lepany) declared, ‘‘This bill seeks to even
further stigmatize prostitutes.’’
Sex worker activists have also been active in oppos-
ing client criminalization bills in Canada in 2014, the European Parliament in 2014,
and Northern Ireland in 2015. Each measure passed despite vocal opposition from
critics. But their impact on sex work stigma may be mixed, because each initiative
provoked opposition from sex workers and their supporters – resistance that may
help to enlighten the public and generate greater support for sex workers’ demands.
The academic community
The academic community can play an important role in destigmatizing unconven-
tional behavior. In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association removed
724 Sexualities 21(5–6)
homosexuality from its compendium of mental illnesses (the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders), and the World Health Organization followed suit in
1990. Professional and academic associations can help reduce stigma by passing reso-
lutions in support of marginalized groups or by directly sponsoring anti-stigma cam-
paigns, as several mental health organizations have done. This kind of intervention is
rare in the sex work arena, but there is at least one prominent example: In October
2011 the board of directors of the Society for the Study of Social Problems passed a
resolution declaring its formal support for: ‘‘(1) bipartisan legislation to decriminalize
prostitution, (2) public education regarding the costs of policing sex workers, and (3)
normalization of the occupation.’’
Other scholarly and professional associations
could pass similar resolutions, which can be widely publicized afterwards.
Scholars can intervene in other ways, such as writing columns for news sources,
appearing on talk shows, and publicizing research ﬁndings that challenge prevailing
fallacies. This happens to some extent now – e.g. scholars participated in the UK
Parliamentary symposium mentioned earlier – but more robust expert involvement
would oﬀer an evidence-based corrective to policies based on myths regarding sex work.
This list of preconditions is not exhaustive but it does cover major areas where
change is needed. As noted earlier, stigma is frequently mentioned by scholars and
activists in the sex work ﬁeld, but it is typically not problematized as a variable
subject to change. This Commentary is intended to catalyze more direct analyses of
the conditions for reducing stigma for all participants in sexual commerce.
It is important to note that any such normalization eﬀorts will be opposed by
established institutions. If the national legal context is one where prostitution is
criminalized, the legal order itself compounds stigmatization and the authorities
have a vested interest in treating sex work as deviant. On top of this, we know that
mainstream social institutions and many powerful, well-organized interest groups
are committed not only to blocking any normalization of commercial sex, but also
to perpetuating and intensifying stigmatization. The anti-prostitution movement is
strong and growing in most parts of the world, bolstered by its successful conﬂation
of prostitution with traﬃcking (Weitzer, 2007). And there is a growing anti-porno-
graphy movement as well, which has succeeded in imposing new restrictions on
erotic material and performances in some nations – Britain, Iceland, India –
(Attwood and Smith, 2010; Burke, 2015; Helgado
´ttir, 2014). But since stigma is
not inherent in any kind of behavior and is instead a social construction, it can be
countered and deconstructed. And such destigmatization can have important con-
sequences for other aspects of sex work: If prostitution is allowed ‘‘to function in a
social climate freed from emotional prejudice’’ (Ericsson, 1980: 362), it then
becomes ‘‘imaginable that prostitution could always be practiced, as it occasionally
is even now, in circumstances of relative safety, security, freedom, hygiene, and
personal control’’ (Overall, 1992: 716). This essay has outlined some preconditions
for broader normalization.
A version of this article was presented at the COST Action IS1209 conference, ‘‘Troubling
Prostitution: Exploring Intersections of Sex, Intimacy, and Labour’’ in Vienna, Austria, 18
April 2015. The COST Action is known as Comparing European Prostitution Policies:
Understanding Scales and Cultures of Governance (ProsPol) (www.propol.eu). I am grateful
to Susan Dewey, Juline Koken, and Sharon Oselin for their comments on an earlier version
of this article.
1. Goffman (1963: 7) writes, ‘‘The stigmatized individual tends to hold the same beliefs
about identity that we do; this is a pivotal fact.’’ He mentions, but only in passing,
some examples of attempts by representatives of a stigmatized category to give voice
to their shared feelings (Goffman, 1963: 24–27).
2. This applies less to individuals whose work is highly visible, such as porn stars and
webcam performers, who are already ‘‘out’’ by virtue of their on-screen appearances.
3. After 50 scholars signed a letter to the Rhode Island state legislature (in the USA)
opposing a new prostitution law in 2009 (Associated Press, 2009), two anti-prostitution
activists attacked the motives of the academics, who were labeled ‘‘sex radicals’’: ‘‘The sex
radicals are targeting Rhode Island for their own extreme sexual libertarian agenda of
preventing any legal limits on any sexual behavior’’ (Brooks and Hughes, 2009: 3). The
academics’ letter, which I co-authored with Elizabeth Wood, contains nothing that would
justify this conclusion and was instead organized around the principles of harm reduction
and labor rights (Letter to Honorable Members of the Rhode Island State Legislature,
Re: Prostitution Law Reform Bill, 31 July 2009).
4. The World Values Survey documents more tolerant attitudes toward prostitution in
nations that have legalized prostitution than where prostitution is illegal (see Weitzer,
2012: 80). Even in countries where criminalization is the norm, however, public opinion
may change over time: according to the World Values Survey, the view that prostitution
is ‘‘never justified’’ has decreased substantially in the USA: from 63% in 1981 to 40% in
2006: http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/WVSOnline.jsp (accessed 25 May 2015).
5. Bedford v. Canada, ONSC 4264, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, 28 September 2010.
The case was heard by an appeals court in 2012 and culminated in a Supreme Court
ruling in 2013 (Canada [Attorney General] v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72, Supreme Court of
Canada, 20 December 2013).
6. In five polls taken between 2011 and 2013, 70% to 82% of French respondents disap-
proved of the idea of criminalizing clients, and a 2013 poll reported that 74% of the
French public favored the ‘‘reopening of brothels’’ in the country (Weitzer, 2015).
7. This was quoted in France24.com (accessed 3 June 2015).
8. Resolution 3, Sex Work: available at: http://www.sssp1.org/index.cfm/pageid/1516/m/
392#R3 (accessed 20 May 2015).
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Ronald Weitzer is a professor of sociology at George Washington University. He
has published extensively on sex work, including his books Sex For Sale:
Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry (2000 and 2010) and Legalizing
Prostitution: From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business (2012). In 2014 he co-edited a
volume on human traﬃcking for the Annals of the American Academy of Political
and Social Science.