Consider the impact of globalisation on sex work

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Sexualities In Contemporary Society                                                    0205866


Consider the impact of globalisation on sex work

Sex work, like so many facets of the world, has not been left untouched by globalisation. The powerful entity that is globalisation has had a profound impact on the arena of sex work. This essay will investigate just how areas like prostitution, pornography et al. have undergone changes due to globalisation. Firstly, the topic of globalisation; a ‘hot potato’ of debate, will be discussed, as an understanding of what it alludes to must be reached if we are to look at how globalisation has exerted its influence on sex work. Secondly, sex work will be examined, as this is an umbrella term, which covers a broad range of activities. Finally, with an understanding of globalisation and sex work reached, we can evaluate how globalisation has had a bearing on sex work.

Globalization is a disputed issue, with arguments for and against it. Even the term causes friction, and there exists differing theories that surround it. There is a contention over the focus of globalization, with various theorists choosing to concentrate on separate specific areas within globalization. Those who discuss the concept concentrate on differing aspects of globalization; Zygmunt Bauman and Liquid Modernity, Saskia Sassen and the Global City, Ulrich Beck and Reflexive Modernization and Stuart Hall and the Multicultural. So what is globalization? It is recognized by many, as an important force in all areas of life; politics, economics and what we read, wear, watch, eat and even how we speak is affected by it. An event on the other side of the world can cause serious repercussions all around the globe. It is an issue and a word, which we cannot escape from; newspapers; television; radio; films and institutions such as the World Bank all speak of globalization but are they all referring to the same thing when they use this ‘buzzword’? It has already been noted that there are many definitions of globalization, with theorists, writers and commentators putting their own spin on it, David Held and Anthony McGrew have already warned it is in danger of becoming, if it has not already become, the cliché of our times (Held & McGrew, 1999).

The explanations, which have been offered, take into account and acknowledge or concentrate upon the political, cultural, social and economic aspects of globalization, yet there is not one definitive explanation. It is impossible to avoid the issue of globalisation, our daily lives bring us into contact with ‘global’ institutions, ‘global’ markets, ‘global’ finance, ‘global communications, ‘global’ migration etc. There is confusion about the concept, and even the precise specific conceptions are diverse, even though they are related in some way but the emphasis is always different. Beck, Sassen, Bauman et al illustrates this point.

The following will draw upon these aspects in an attempt to present the debate on globalization. Perhaps the most important feature of globalization is the world integration/interconnectedness it has produced. This has come about in many ways; Held and McGrew discuss the four types of change that have contributed to this interconnectedness, which is a major part of the ongoing development of globalisation. Firstly, it involves a stretching of social, political and economic activities across political frontiers, regions and continents. This can be illustrated by the flows of people, capital and trade across the world, physical (transport), normative (trade rules) and symbolic (English being a widely spoken language) infrastructures all enable this stretching. Secondly, it suggests the intensification of interconnectedness, an intensification, which means states and societies become progressively trapped in global systems and networks of interaction. Thirdly, there has been a process of speeding up in many areas enabled by the Intranet and faster methods of travel for example. The effect that this has is the global circulation of goods, people, ideas, capital etc occurs at a much quicker pace, sometimes almost instantaneously. The Oscars provides a good example for this point; 150 countries broadcast this event meaning viewers all over the world are tuned in at the same time (ABC, 2004) Distance shrinks as result of this speeding up. The last change which Held and McGrew refer to is that the extensity, force and swiftness of global interactions have a serious impact. The consequence of this being that distant events can have a domestic impact e.g. 9/11 had a worldwide impact, the effects and results of this incident were not just felt in America, while local happenings can cause major global ramifications. Gidden’s definition of globalisation illustrates this fourth point: ‘globalization can thus be defined as the intensification of worldwide social relations which link different localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa’ (Giddens, 1990; p64). In short, there is not a rigid boundary between affairs at home and global affairs. They sum globalization up as being the widening, intensifying, speeding up, and growing impact of worldwide interconnectedness’ (Held & McGrew, 2000, pp3-4).

Brah, Hickman and Mac an Ghaill touch upon the instantaneous aspect of globalisation in their definition of globalization: ‘in a very broad sense ‘globalization’ may be understood as referring to the processes, procedures and technologies – economic, cultural and political – underpinning the current ‘time-space’ compression which produces a sense of immediacy and simultaneity about the world’ (Brah, Hickman & Mac an Ghaill, 1999, p3) They go on to suggest that movement plays an integral part in globalisation, the movement of capital, commodities, people and cultural imaginations and practices (Brah, Hickman & Mac an Ghaill, 1999, p3). John Tomlinson develops both these points in his understanding of globalization, it ‘refers to the rapidly developing and ever-densensing network of interconnections and inter-dependences that characterize modern social life’ (Tomlinson, 1999, p2) Tomlinson’s particular concept related to globalization is that of ‘complex connectivity’ He argues that connectivity is a common feature in most definitions of globalization – this could be said to be the one common held view in the differing accounts.: Held and McGrew speak of interconnectedness, while the concepts of networks, flows and scapes are used by Castells and Urry respectively. Tomlinson explains connectivity as experiencing distance in different ways. In terms of experiencing it at a physical level, distance is no longer a problem due to connectivity; countries are thought of as a flight away rather than 50,000 miles for example. Experiencing distance at a representational level means distant places are routinely accessible through communications technology or mass media.

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To discuss the impact of globalisation, which has been analysed and defined above, on sex work, the term sex work must be characterized in order to discuss the effect globalisation has had. Sex workers are those individuals working in the sex industry, which is defined thus: ‘sex industry refers to a range of practices involving the exchange of sex and or sexually related goods or services for money. Most of the contributors are current or former strippers, prostitutes, porn actors, writers, producers, professional dominatrixes and phone sex workers’ (Nagle, 1997) These practices which Nagle refers to can be found in ...

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