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The safeguarding delusion: sex work and policing in Wales

Sam Hanks Orcid Logo

Justice, Power and Resistance, Volume: 5, Issue: 1-2

Swansea University Author: Sam Hanks Orcid Logo

  • Accepted Manuscript under embargo until: 31st May 2023

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DOI (Published version): 10.1332/VYJF2519

Abstract

This article explores the extent to which sex worker's accounts of living and working in Wales are compatible with the discourses of wellbeing, vulnerability and safeguarding that are increasingly utilised by governments and police forces to frame their interactions with sex work. In revealing...

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Published in: Justice, Power and Resistance
ISSN: 2635-2338
Published: Bristol University Press 2022
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa59002
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first_indexed 2021-12-31T16:23:22Z
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spelling 2022-11-02T13:52:56.2983939 v2 59002 2021-12-13 The safeguarding delusion: sex work and policing in Wales c58b4529daef981bc41ae915409a0958 0000-0001-9240-2952 Sam Hanks Sam Hanks true false 2021-12-13 CSSP This article explores the extent to which sex worker's accounts of living and working in Wales are compatible with the discourses of wellbeing, vulnerability and safeguarding that are increasingly utilised by governments and police forces to frame their interactions with sex work. In revealing a disjuncture between the declared aims of state-based institutions and sex workers ongoing experiences of repression and abandonment, the article challenges claims that a more enlightened and transformative approach to sex work is being realised in the United Kingdom as a product of updated policing guidance and Welsh legislative change. By drawing on data collected through a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests distributed to Police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service, in addition to interviews with sex workers, massage parlour managers, local authority, police and third sector workers, a critical discourse analysis seeks to demonstrate two conflicting realities of the function of the state’s interaction with sex work. On the one hand, FOI data reveal low rates of arrests and charges for prostitution related offences in Wales, in line with National Police Chiefs Council guidance (2015; 2019) that disincentivises their enforcement. But sex workers’ accounts reveal how policing conducted under the guise of welfare, safeguarding and vulnerability supplement and disguise, rather than replace increasingly discredited enforcement techniques. Furthermore, the findings reveal how the move away from enforcing prostitution offences does nothing to prevent sex workers from being subjected to policing by virtue of other ‘at risk’ or ‘deviant’ labels imposed on them. It is in this way that the malleability and symbolic power of concepts of safeguarding and vulnerability enable the maintenance of an illusion whereby oppressive state practices can be recast and presented as enabling progressive and benevolent outcomes for sex workers. The analysis outlines the importance of recognising the function of the front-staging of concepts of vulnerability and safeguarding in enabling the renewal of deviancy control systems in light of changing social perceptions on how the state should interact with sex workers. In so doing it prompts consideration of the state’s ability to meaningfully address the demands of sex workers without first recognising and dismantling the multiple structures and processes that undermine their safety and autonomy. Journal Article Justice, Power and Resistance 5 1-2 Bristol University Press 2635-2338 31 5 2022 2022-05-31 10.1332/VYJF2519 COLLEGE NANME Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy COLLEGE CODE CSSP Swansea University 2022-11-02T13:52:56.2983939 2021-12-13T21:17:15.2568394 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences School of Social Sciences - Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy Sam Hanks 0000-0001-9240-2952 1 Under embargo Under embargo 2022-01-04T14:20:31.7797928 Output 430052 application/pdf Accepted Manuscript true 2023-05-31T00:00:00.0000000 true eng
title The safeguarding delusion: sex work and policing in Wales
spellingShingle The safeguarding delusion: sex work and policing in Wales
Sam Hanks
title_short The safeguarding delusion: sex work and policing in Wales
title_full The safeguarding delusion: sex work and policing in Wales
title_fullStr The safeguarding delusion: sex work and policing in Wales
title_full_unstemmed The safeguarding delusion: sex work and policing in Wales
title_sort The safeguarding delusion: sex work and policing in Wales
author_id_str_mv c58b4529daef981bc41ae915409a0958
author_id_fullname_str_mv c58b4529daef981bc41ae915409a0958_***_Sam Hanks
author Sam Hanks
author2 Sam Hanks
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institution Swansea University
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doi_str_mv 10.1332/VYJF2519
publisher Bristol University Press
college_str Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
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hierarchy_top_id facultyofhumanitiesandsocialsciences
hierarchy_top_title Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
hierarchy_parent_id facultyofhumanitiesandsocialsciences
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description This article explores the extent to which sex worker's accounts of living and working in Wales are compatible with the discourses of wellbeing, vulnerability and safeguarding that are increasingly utilised by governments and police forces to frame their interactions with sex work. In revealing a disjuncture between the declared aims of state-based institutions and sex workers ongoing experiences of repression and abandonment, the article challenges claims that a more enlightened and transformative approach to sex work is being realised in the United Kingdom as a product of updated policing guidance and Welsh legislative change. By drawing on data collected through a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests distributed to Police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service, in addition to interviews with sex workers, massage parlour managers, local authority, police and third sector workers, a critical discourse analysis seeks to demonstrate two conflicting realities of the function of the state’s interaction with sex work. On the one hand, FOI data reveal low rates of arrests and charges for prostitution related offences in Wales, in line with National Police Chiefs Council guidance (2015; 2019) that disincentivises their enforcement. But sex workers’ accounts reveal how policing conducted under the guise of welfare, safeguarding and vulnerability supplement and disguise, rather than replace increasingly discredited enforcement techniques. Furthermore, the findings reveal how the move away from enforcing prostitution offences does nothing to prevent sex workers from being subjected to policing by virtue of other ‘at risk’ or ‘deviant’ labels imposed on them. It is in this way that the malleability and symbolic power of concepts of safeguarding and vulnerability enable the maintenance of an illusion whereby oppressive state practices can be recast and presented as enabling progressive and benevolent outcomes for sex workers. The analysis outlines the importance of recognising the function of the front-staging of concepts of vulnerability and safeguarding in enabling the renewal of deviancy control systems in light of changing social perceptions on how the state should interact with sex workers. In so doing it prompts consideration of the state’s ability to meaningfully address the demands of sex workers without first recognising and dismantling the multiple structures and processes that undermine their safety and autonomy.
published_date 2022-05-31T04:11:56Z
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