Friday 14 April 2023
14.00 - 16.00
Sex Wars: Sex Work, Trafficking, Tourism, and Porn after 1945
Anna Dobrowolska :
Sex, Migration, and the End of the Cold War. Female Transnational Mobility in 1980s Poland
Magaly Rodríguez García
Magaly Rodríguez García
In 1983 20-year-old Danuta left her home village in South-East Poland. Little did she expect that this travel would be a first step in her career as an erotic model, actress and pop singer. In the coming years her photos were featured on the pages of (among many others) German ... (Show more)
In 1983 20-year-old Danuta left her home village in South-East Poland. Little did she expect that this travel would be a first step in her career as an erotic model, actress and pop singer. In the coming years her photos were featured on the pages of (among many others) German Penthouse, Spanish Playboy, and American Gent. As Danuta travelled East and West through the Iron Curtain, Polish society was also somehow suspended in between: fading socialism and emerging neoliberal capitalism. Drawing on such biographies, this paper aims to investigate female transnational mobility in the 1980s and its role in the transformations of gender and social order of late state socialism.
The history of migration from communist East Central Europe to the West has so far been dominated by political perspectives and the importance of gender and sexuality for both social and cultural history of transnational mobility has not been properly addressed. The paper will analyse biographies of women who migrated from Poland for a career in Western sex industry. By writing these women back into history of Cold War migration the paper questions the opposition between worthy and unworthy types of labour and showcases unexpected spaces of subversion. (Show less)
Sonja Dolinsek :
The Contested Meaning of “Sexual Labor” in the Era of the World Women’s Conferences
Little is known about how the conflict and fault lines between the sex worker rights movement and the movement to abolish prostitution emerged, thus often conveying a sense of unavoidability and timelessness. The idea that the sex workers’ rights movement and the anti-sex work movement stand on opposite sides by ... (Show more)
Little is known about how the conflict and fault lines between the sex worker rights movement and the movement to abolish prostitution emerged, thus often conveying a sense of unavoidability and timelessness. The idea that the sex workers’ rights movement and the anti-sex work movement stand on opposite sides by default is, however, not historically warranted. While historical research on public and political debates on prostitution has mostly focused on the 19th and early 20th century, this paper explores the re-emergence of transnational debates concerning paid sex from 1975, when the first World Woman’s Conference took place in Mexico City, to the final Beijing World Women’s Conference in 1995. Based on a broad range of archival sources from state and movement archives in the United States, the United Kingdom and France, this paper re-traces the interactions between the newly emerged prostitutes’ rights movement and the new wave of anti-trafficking and anti-prostitution advocacy spurred by Kathleen Barry’s “Female sexual slavery”. The paper focuses on transnational conferences and workshops, in which these actors presented their ideas and engaged with each other. Studying these interactions reveals the complex dynamics that, over the course of two decades, led to an increased enmity and polarization in which advocating for the rights of sex workers was seen as antithetical to advocating for women’s rights. While in the 1970s, the rise of new social movements led to a temporary acceptance and even public support of the prostitutes’ rights movement and their calls for recognition and decriminalization, by the mid-1990s the transnational debate on prostitution became increasingly inimical. (Show less)
Christopher Ewing :
Criminal Travels: German Debates on Sex Tourism at the Turn of the 1990s
This paper argues that transnational debates about sex tourism were instrumental to ending the ambiguity about desire for underage boys from a mainstream German gay rights movement in the early 1990s. Prior to the 1990s, West German gay publications and guides reported enthusiastically on possibilities for sexual contact in popular ... (Show more)
This paper argues that transnational debates about sex tourism were instrumental to ending the ambiguity about desire for underage boys from a mainstream German gay rights movement in the early 1990s. Prior to the 1990s, West German gay publications and guides reported enthusiastically on possibilities for sexual contact in popular destinations in the Global South, possibilities which often left the question of age of potential contacts unclear. During the 1980s, however, anti-trafficking activists and sex worker activists were engaged in a vociferous transnational debate about the best ways to address global forms of sexual exploitation. While many anti-trafficking activists understood sex work as always exploitative and closely related to trafficking and tourism, many sex worker activists argued in favor of improved legal and working conditions and attention to structural inequalities. These debates, and particularly the debates that took place at the level of the UN, were filtered into the German context through the AIDS Enquete Commission, established by the Bundestag in 1987 to develop solutions to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as ongoing Bundestag debates about multiple human rights abuses against women and children. By the early 1990s, sex tourism had, for German lawmakers, become inextricably intertwined with other forms of highly-publicized sexual exploitation of children in the Global South, including trafficking, pornography, and prostitution, mandating the use of criminal law. Coupled with a series of highly public international scandals involving gay organizations and abuse of minors, the close association between sex tourism and criminal sexual exploitation caused leading German gay activists to resolutely condemn any desire for underage boys. In so doing, however, these gay activists followed German lawmakers in effectively jettisoning a focus on structural inequalities as well as foreclosing criticism of criminal law as a means to address exploitation. (Show less)
Paul Horntrich :
Obscenity, Soft and Hard: the Changing Regulation of Pornography in 1970s Austria
Recent research in the history of sexuality has seen a growing interest in the study of pornography and sexualized media. For German-speaking Europe, most research so far has focused on the 19th century or the first half of the 20th century. Interestingly, the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s ... (Show more)
Recent research in the history of sexuality has seen a growing interest in the study of pornography and sexualized media. For German-speaking Europe, most research so far has focused on the 19th century or the first half of the 20th century. Interestingly, the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s has seen much less scholarly attention until now, even though public visibility of sexualized media and the commercialization of pornography increased significantly during this time, causing lively and often controversial debates in politics, media, and the courtroom.
Besides historical scholarship, the emerging discipline of Porn Studies has led the way in theoretical and conceptual questions regarding the critical study of pornographies past and present. Porn studies have stressed the importance of historical and cultural contexts for understanding pornography. Adopting this view, historical understandings of pornography can be reconstructed as complex phenomena shaped by diverse influences, actors, and institutions.
One of the major forces in defining notions of pornography and obscenity is and was criminal law. However, legal provisions pertaining pornography were heavily contested during the sexual revolution. Amongst the first countries that legalized or substantially reformed their pornography laws were the Scandinavian countries, with Denmark leading the way and starting to decriminalize pornography already in 1967. Other countries then followed suit during the 1970s or 1980s.
The proposed paper discusses the Austrian case. In Austria, the introduction of an anti-pornography law in 1950 banned all kinds of “obscene” media. In 1977, pornography was partly decriminalized through a Supreme Court ruling after years of intense debate over the appropriateness of the pornography law. The Supreme Court ruling introduced a distinction between so-called “hard” and “soft” pornography. Homosexual pornography, child pornography, pornography featuring bestiality, and pornography depicting violence was considered as “hard” and remained illegal. Everything that did not match these categories was interpreted as “soft” pornography and became decriminalized. The Supreme Court’s rationale for the change of judicature was that public morals (in particular sexual morals) would have changed, and that the “sociological average person” – a legal concept used to explain the social appropriateness of legal provisions – had now become “open minded”. In consequence, depictions of heterosexual sex were not considered obscene any longer. Homosexual pornography, however, remained illegal and was seen as threat to the wider public, even though homosexuality between adults had already become legal in 1971. Sexual orientation and its perceived effects on wider society remained the benchmark for legal understandings of acceptable sexual desire. By discussing the Supreme Court ruling, the criminal case that led to the ruling, and the public reform discourse, the paper explores the process of the (partial) decriminalization of pornography in the broader socio-political context of 1970s Austria. (Show less)
Mariah Larsson :
Swedish Sex Wars: Pornography Debates in Sweden from the 1960s to the 2020s
Sweden is one of the most secularized nations in the world. Like in many other Western nations, secularization began with enlightenment in the 18th century, continued with industrialization in the 19th and early 20th century, but in Sweden the process was accelerated in the postwar era and aligned with the ... (Show more)
Sweden is one of the most secularized nations in the world. Like in many other Western nations, secularization began with enlightenment in the 18th century, continued with industrialization in the 19th and early 20th century, but in Sweden the process was accelerated in the postwar era and aligned with the social welfare project. In the early 1960s, religion studies replaced Christianity as a subject in schools, in 2000, the church was separated from the state, and in World Population Review’s numbers from 2022, Sweden ranks as the second nation in the world after China in secularization.
Therefore, it may come as a surprise that the old cliché that the anti-porn movement makes strange bedfellows out of feminism and the religious right, although based mainly on observations from the American Sex Wars in the 1980s, seems true for Sweden, too. This paper addresses some of the connections, convergences, and alignments between Christian conservatives and anti-porn feminists in the Swedish porn debates, starting with how Inga-Britt Larsson, a small-town Christian activist who became famous for tearing down sexually explicit posters in the late 1960s, was framed in the press as a feminist, and ending with how the group Porrfri barndom (“porn-free childhood”) recently was revealed to have strong connections to the international religious movement Hillsong. (Show less)
Nora Lehner :
Regulationism, Female Sexual Labor, and Male Desire – Commercial Sex in Austria from the Mid 1940ies until the Mid 1970ies
In April 2012, the Austrian Supreme Court (OGH) ruled that the “agreement between a prostitute and her client [...] is not generally immoral” (OGH, 3Ob45/12g, 18.04.2012), granting sex workers the right to conclude contracts with brothel operators or to sue for remuneration for the first time. The legislation on commercial ... (Show more)
In April 2012, the Austrian Supreme Court (OGH) ruled that the “agreement between a prostitute and her client [...] is not generally immoral” (OGH, 3Ob45/12g, 18.04.2012), granting sex workers the right to conclude contracts with brothel operators or to sue for remuneration for the first time. The legislation on commercial sex – a form of labor that remained heavily regulated and policed despite its decriminalization in the mid-1970ies – thus points towards the need for a nuanced view on the narrative of sexual liberalization in the last decades of the 20th century.
Historical prostitution research argues that the debate on sexual labor and its regulation often served to normalize sexuality and sexual behavior in Western societies, the Austrian case being no exception. Gender relations, family ideals and sexuality played essential roles in the reconstruction of Austria’s society after the Second World War. Alleged (clandestine) prostitution was deemed a main problem in the first post-war years and continued to cause moral panic throughout the period under study. As of mid-1945, authorities legally tolerated prostitution by women but considered the practice immoral. Austrian (criminal) law on commercial sex was gendered and mostly directed at women. To legally sell sexual services, (unmarried) women had to register with the police and undergo regular physical examinations. The regulation of commercial sex fell to the police who had ample room for maneuver when deciding when, why and where selling sex was considered “immoral” and prosecutable. The legal situation remained unchanged until the mid-70ies, but the instructions both to women selling sex and the police were continuously adapted; each change reflecting contemporary fears associated with the presumed nexus of commercial sex, deviance and a criminal “underworld”. While women could be criminalized for the provision of sexual services, male clients and their desire were not subjected to any regulations.
Against the backdrop of this legal context, my paper discusses how Austrian post-war society transitioned from a state of exception – the end of the Second World War and the early post-war years – to a perceived “normality”, the economic recovery of the 1950ies until the sexual liberalization of the 1970ies. By researching Vienna’s sexual economies, I investigate how these cultural, societal, and political transitions are reflected in the discourses on commercial sexualities. I use the stigmatized and scandalized phenomenon of prostitution as a lens to shed light on the gender and family ideals as well as sexual mores of Austrian post-war society. Lastly, I am interested in the mostly working-class women that the highly gendered regulation of prostitution targeted. Here, I focus on their experiences and the strategies they used to navigate the, often arbitrary, measures of control. Regulationism led to a comprehensive and unique body of governmental records which open up new avenues for researching intersectional categories such as gender, socio-economic and regional backgrounds, race, age, and education. The aim of my micro and discourse analytical case study is to highlight not only ruptures but also historical continuities in the regulation and policing of women who sold sex. (Show less)