Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences BIS 490, Autumn 2009
Commercial Sex Work, Sexual Health, and Global Human Rights

Instructor: Kari Lerum

Office: UW2 328
Office Hours: TBA
Telephone: 425-352-3588

Date, Time, Location
Mondays and Wednesdays, 1.15-3.20 pm; UW2 221

Course Description
Commercial sex workers have long had the dubious honor of being simultaneously glamorized, pitied, and condemned. Sex work is the cause célèbre for many stakeholders, including some religious leaders, media producers, neighborhood groups, law enforcers, feminist and human rights activists, and public health workers. On several occasions in the United States, the "left" (feminists) and the "right" (conservative Christians) have even united to oppose commodified sexuality (anti-porn ordinances of the 1980s; anti-trafficking movements in the 2000s). Why does the idea of selling sexual services create such uproar? Do individuals ever truly choose to be sex workers, or are they forced into it by social constraints? How do sex workers' lives reinforce, clash with, and/or subvert social norms around gender, sexuality, and the meaning of work? Does class, race, sex, and nationality make more of an impact on individuals than whether or not they are a "sex worker"? Or is there an intersection between sex work and these important axes of social location? The intent of this course is to (a) understand the political, economic, social, and cultural forces that shape local and global sex industries and life within and around it; (b) examine how these forces impact people's relationship to sexuality more broadly; and (c) to envision ways to become a productive activist on issues related to sexual health, workers rights, and human rights.
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Last modified: 11/11/2009 8:21 AM