Queer Sex Work in the City (CLAGS Seminar in the City)

This course is free and open to the public.
Please Note: This seminar runs for FOUR consecutive meetings
Thursdays: 10/23, 10/30, 11/6, 11/13
6:30p – 8:30pm
The Graduate Center, CUNY
Room: 9205 for 10/23, 10/30, 11/6
Room: C202 for 11/13
Instructed by: Crystal A. Jackson

This seminar explores the socio-politics of sexual labor and those in the sex trade in NYC. How do LGBTQ voices inform new ways of understanding class inequality, gender-based discrimination, and sexual rights? In what ways can sexual labor  “queer” our ideas of sex, relationships, intimacy, and economics?

Sex workers and people who trade sex experience a range of legal, social, and economic oppression, social stigma, and violence. Through several NYC-based organizations, people who sell/trade sex also find a place to amplify their voices, advocate for rights, and tell their stories.

Considering the general media and pop culture portrayal of sex workers as largely straight cisgender women and girls in need of rescue, this seminar will delve into the experiences of LGBTQ sex workers/people who trade sex, and the ways in which sexual labor “queers” and challenges social norms around gender, sex, money, and work.

The seminar will pay particular attention to local sex worker rights activist efforts, including the work of organizations such as the Red Umbrella Project and the Sex Workers Project. New York City is home to historical moments of sex worker rights organizing, including examples of the leadership of sex workers in the gay liberation/LGBTQ rights movement. From Sylvia Rivera to Janet Mock, how have LGBTQ rights advocates embraced, ignored, or silenced sexual labor, and to what end?

In a late capitalist society, the intersection of money and intimacy complicates our beliefs around power, agency, and identity. “Queer Sex Work in the City” illuminates the taken-for-granted, common sense ideals we have about the sale/trade of sex, and humanizes the people who do so. Writings by sex workers, sex worker rights allies, and scholars offer insights into the intersection of race, gender, sex/uality, class, and labor. Guest speakers will also share their knowledge about the political, legal, and economic state of sexual labor in the city . In this way, the seminar will provide a sociological approach to understanding the sale/trade of sex, rather than a psychological one.


Seminar Topics:

  • Introduction to Queer Sex Work in the City
  • Condoms, Shelter, and Work: Legal and Economic Inequalities
  • Art, Outreach, & Activism
  • “Rights, Not Wrongs” –sex worker rights saying

*No prior experience in academic or activist work around sex work, people who trade sex, or sex trafficking is needed. All readings will be provided.

Instructor Bio:

Crystal A. Jackson, Ph.D., joined the Department of Sociology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice-CUNY as an assistant professor in 2013. Her scholarship examines the sociological meanings embedded in various forms of sexual labor, from local strip club laws to porn. She is co-author ofThe State of Sex: Tourism, Sex, and Sin in the New American Heartland(Routledge, 2010), an ethnographic exploration of Nevada’s legal, rural brothels. Her current project explores contemporary U.S. sex worker rights organizing efforts.

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