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Prostitution, hustling, and sex work are forms of labor, not erotic preferences or identities as are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, but sex workers and queers alike are stigmatized and criminalized for consensual sexual activity. The state – federal, state, and local law enforcement – routinely interferes with certain types of sexual activity. Enforcement of laws regulating sex behavior often varies given the discretion of local police. In her 1989 essay “Thinking Sex,” Gayle Rubin positions sex-for-money, prostitution, with pornography, promiscuous sex, pornography, and homosexual sex in the low status “outer limits” of the contemporary American sex hierarchy; while heterosexual, free, and monogamous sex occupy the “charmed circle” of high status, socially favored sexual behavior. Sex-for-money performed in combination with other kinds of sex on the “outer limits” raises the risks of arrest and social stigmatization, particularly if a sexual transaction is made public outside the consensual and sustaining sexual market, and especially if it is the object of complaint brought to the attention of law enforcement by vigilante citizens.


Originally published “Prostitution, Hustling, and Sex Work Law and Policy,” in Marc Stein, ed. Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America. New York: Charles Scribner’s, 2004, pp. 435-438.



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