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Laura Agustin on Brothels

July 15, 2010

Are brothels bad? When are they good? Why do sex workers oppose mandatory health checks?

I don’t think brothels are a bad thing and I don’t think brothels are a good thing – not per se. Businesses that offer sexual services to customers who drop in to select a sex worker are a kind of shop and a kind of workplace. Some people like to buy in that kind of shop and some people like to work in it, with managers, set shifts and rules. Some rights activists wish all sex workers would be entrepreneurs working independently or organise themselves in small collectives, but many people like being employed and having a boss and colleagues. Like an office or plant, a brothel can function as a reassuringly ordinary place, with its attendant office politics, opportunities for learning, quarrels with managers and struggles for better conditions.

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