Feminists have long differed in their view of prostitution. While some regard it as a classic form of exploitation and degradation, others offer a more sympathetic interpretation of women's involvement in the sex industry. In this important new book, Maggie O'Neill seeks to explore the theoretical debates on prostitution and the relevance of these to the everyday lived experiences of women working on the streets. Based upon her own ethnographic research - defined as ethno-mimesis - the author seeks to undermine and demystify stereotypical images of prostitutes. She explores the narratives offered by prostitutes themselves, as well as other forms of their representation in film, art and photography, and shows how these various mediums may be used to shed light on the socio-economic processes and structures which lead women into prostitution. These personal accounts produce what O'Neill refers to as 'a politics of feeling', which, she argues, may be used to transform attitudes, policy and practice in relation to female prostitution.
By relating these individual experiences to critical feminist theory, the book deepens our understanding of the phenomenon of prostitution in contemporary society. The book will be of particular interest to students and scholars in gender studies, feminist theory and sociology.
Maggie O'Neill is a Reader in Sociology and Women's Studies at Staffordshire University