A critical perspective on difference: 'the prostitute' and women with prostitution experience
Nordic Social Work Research
This article discusses the continuities and discontinuities between 'the prostitute' as representation(s) and prostitution as lived experience(s). Women (men, and transgendered) involved in prostitution are subjected to othering processes, processes that stigmatize, disempower and potentially silence them as Others. Representations of 'prostitutes' in academic discourse, popular discourse and in the media constructs 'the prostitute' as disparately as: 'victim of patriarchy', 'economic
... ur', 'undeserving victim', 'unfit mother', 'commodity', 'dirty and sexually indiscriminatory' etc. Reductionist and stigmatizing representations of 'prostitutes' have both symbolical and material consequences for women with prostitution experience. I argue that one of the main challenges for social work research on prostitution is to counter rather than to participate in othering processes. Through othering processes, women with prostitution experience are constructed as different from other women. With an and/both approach to difference, differences are considered to be fluid, shifting and discursive as well as enduring and embodied. Women with prostitution experience are not only constructed as 'different' but also consequently have 'different' experiences. Doing research that counters rather than participates in othering processes implies both deconstructing difference and making visible the effects of constructed difference.