Taken for Granted? The Geography and Regulation of Sex Work in Scotland (12911)
There is a paucity of scholarly analysis on the spatial and regulatory contours of sex work in Scotland. In the last few years however there has been growing media interest in Scotland’s ‘suburban sexscape’ (Maginn and Steinmetz, forthcoming). This has been on the back of efforts to introduce the so-called Swedish model of regulating sex work by the Scottish Labour MP, Rhoda Grant. These proposals echo efforts in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, France, and most recently, the European Parliament. Put simply, they form part of a moralistic and ideological narrative around human trafficking and sexual exploitation that has been crafted by a seemingly unlikely coalition of radical feminists and reactionary religious groups and political actors. It is proclaimed by this constellation of actors that the Swedish model will help protect women in sex work from violence, coercion, exploitation and moral abandonment since this regulatory approach criminalises the purchaser of sexual services (i.e. men) and not the providers (i.e. women). This paper considers the nature of sex work in Scotland by (i) outlining the key contemporary regulatory frameworks that govern sex work in that jurisdiction; (ii) critically analysing the efficacy of the proposed Swedish model of regulation, emphasising its gendered bias in overlooking the existence of male and trans sex workers; (iii) profiling the demographic characteristics of the sex worker population drawing on data gleaned from escort websites and (iv) highlighting the historical, contemporary and emergent geographies of where sex work takes place, with particular emphasis given to Glasgow and Edinburgh. In overall terms, this paper argues that the recent proposals to regulate sex work via the Swedish model and police clampdowns on saunas are part of a socially constructed moral panic and political exercise that has excluded sex worker voices from the policy review and democratic processes surrounding sex work. In keeping with the philosophy of sex worker movements throughout the world – ‘nothing about us, without us’ – this paper is also informed by the lived experiences of one of its co-authors who is a professional dominatrix and sex worker advocate in the UK.