Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Christie Hartley

Second Advisor

Dr. Sebastian Rand


The relationship between sex and power is the focus of much feminist work. Most feminists agree that the norms of heterosexuality as defined by the dominant patriarchal ideology are central to women’s continued oppression. However, feminists disagree about how women can resist these norms and whether sex work can be a site of resistance and place where women can empower themselves. While the “sex work is work” slogan of decriminalization advocacy has helped shift the label “sexual deviant” off sex workers and onto their customers, I argue that the resulting power shift is bound to power as domination. Empowerment, I argue, is experienced by sex workers through the performance of a pre-constructed sexuality that has historically been a site of powerlessness and subsequent exploration of sexual expression outside patriarchal power relations. The capacity of this creative endeavor to effect positive socio-sexual change cannot be seen through a desexualized lens.

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