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Digital sex markets: Entrepreneurialism and consumption within an uncertain regulatory framework

Rand, Helen M (2020) Digital sex markets: Entrepreneurialism and consumption within an uncertain regulatory framework. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Digital technologies have transformed sex markets in at least two notable ways: first, through the emergence of new digital modalities of sex work, such as webcamming; second, through the ability to purchase erotic/sexual exchanges at any time, and almost anywhere. As a fairly recent development there is limited research on how digital modalities of sex work are being organised, consumed and produced. This study contributes to the understanding of these new forms of digital economy, questioning how they are made sense of and negotiated by digital sex workers and customers. I have approached this study using mixed-methods, drawing on multiple online and offline sources. These include online ethnographic observations, 33 interviews with customers and workers, digital documentary analysis, an online survey with customers and data-mining from a leading sex work platform. The key findings in this thesis reveal tensions in how the market is understood by customers and workers, and society more broadly. I argue that the market is legitimised yet the labour remains stigmatised. The first key finding points to evidence of economic legitimation of digital sex markets, normalisation in the technological architecture and processes of differentiation from „illegal‟ sex markets. Yet, the second key finding points to a tension in the accounts of workers and customers who express varying degrees of stigma and emotional and social risks that require everyday management. The third finding relates to the uncertain regulatory framework. There are no specific formal laws regarding digital sex markets, but I argue they are regulated by state laws in conjunction with platform governance and self-governance of workers and customers. This study extends debates on platform-managed labour by using a sex work lens to explore the role of gender and sexuality in labour processes in the digital age, thereby, capturing the diversity of labour markets dynamically transformed by the Internet. The study, therefore, speaks more broadly to debates on digital governance, digital labour, and sexual labour politics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Digital labour Sex work platform-managed labour sexaulity stigma sexual labour digital governance
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Helen Rand
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2020 09:38
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2021 16:35

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