The Transformation of Sexual Commerce and Urban Space in San Francisco by Elizabeth Bernstein
Despite the frequent equation of “prostitution” with “the oldest profession,” what many of us typically think of as prostitution has not existed for very long at all: large-scale, commercialized prostitution in the West is a recent phenomenon, emerging out of the dislocations of modern industrial capitalism in the mid 19th century.
For social scientists, legal scholars, and feminists (not to mention state actors) who have been attentive to the issue of prostitution, a key question has concerned what societies should do about it. Underlying this dilemma are a number of important ethical and political concerns: Is there anything inherently wrong with the exchange of sex for money? Should prostitution be considered a crime? In the mid-1990s, while serving as a participantobserver on the San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution, I got the chance to directly witness the ways in which policymakers and local activists responded to these questions. The Task Force had been created by the city’s Board of Supervisors to suggest amendments to existing prostitution laws. In tandem with this work, I also began what would become a seven-year ethnographic project of my own to map the transformations in the city’s commercial sex trade, as well as attempts to regulate it in San Francisco and other cities.
The Transformation of Sexual Commerce and Urban Space in San Francisco
- The Sexual Politics of the “New Abolitionism” by Elizabeth Bernstein
- Introduction to Special Issue: Sexual Commerce and the Global Flow of Bodies, Desires, and Social Policies by Elizabeth Bernstein
- Sex for the Middle Classes by Elizabeth Bernstein
- Militarized Humanitarianism Meets Carceral Feminism: The Politics of Sex, Rights, and Freedom in Contemporary Antitrafficking Campaigns by Elizabeth Bernstein