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Making It Work: The Prostitutes' Rights Movement in Perspective

NCJ Number
V Jenness
Date Published
The author views prostitution as a social problem and examines the emergence of organizations involved in protecting the rights of prostitutes.
The central goal of the prostitute rights movement is to protect prostitutes from public designations of deviance and from legal and social control systems. In the process, the movement to legitimize prostitution has been met with ambivalence, support, criticism, and organized opposition. The movement not only seeks make prostitution acceptable but also celebrates it. An organization known as COYOTE focuses on concerns related to the status of prostitutes. By engaging in public debate, COYOTE members have addressed such issues as discriminatory law enforcement practices, violence against women, the unconstitutionality of laws prohibiting prostitution, and various issues associated with the AIDS epidemic. Most of COYOTE's public activities focus on creating and presenting various images of prostitutes that challenge depictions of prostitutes as social misfits, illicit sex providers and victims, and "bad girls." The group advocates the repeal of existing prostitution laws, the acceptance of prostitution as a viable service occupation, and the protection of prostitutes' civil rights. COYOTE has participated in three separate but interrelated arenas of public debate over the past two decades: (1) selective and discriminatory enforcement of criminal law; (2) contemporary feminist issues related to violence against women and the right of women to control and use their bodies as they see fit; and (3) assertions that prostitutes spread AIDS. References and notes