Sexual Barter during the Holocaust

The other day over at the Duck Dan Nexon asked readers to point him in the direction of research that might assist him to form an opinion about legal prostitution.  I tried to leave a comment with links to a few articles, but I have low commenting skill (i.e., have failed numerous times, on various blogs, to successfully post a comment), and did not complete the act.  This morning my In Box contained the Table of Contents for the most recent issue of Signs, and the lead article immediately grabbed my attention: “Sexual Barter in Times of Genocide: Negotiating the Sexual Economy of the Theresienstadt Ghetto” by Anna Hájková.

Hájková’s essay is interesting for a number of reasons, and if you do not have access to download it ask an academic you know to send you a copy.  The connection I wish to make to Nexon’s post is her discussion of the reason she uses the phrase “sexual barter.”

Sexual barter is [an] umbrella concept, and one of its forms is prostitution… It is preferable to speak “sexual barter” in general, and “instrumental sex” and “rational relationships” in particular (p. 505).

Not only does Hájková have a fabulous title, but the essay delivers, getting right into the charged intersection of the exercise of choice within a power context across genders, which is itself nested within the power context among prisoners.  While the essay is not directly relevant to Nexon’s query (it is empirically grounded interpretive scholarship, not social science, and it has a considerably broader scope–sexual barter–applied to a different population–prisoners), it is both interesting in its own right and as context in which to weigh the issue raised there.

That said, I will paste below the pieces that those interested in (social science) research on legal sex work might want to eyeball, but I failed to post to the Dan’s post:

Weltzer. 2009. “Sociology of Sex Work.” Annual Review of Sociology

Sanders & Campbell. 2007. “Designing out vulnerability, building in respect: violence, safety and sex work policyBritish journal of sociology

Brents & Hausbeck. 2005. “Violence and Legalized Brothel Prostitution in Nevada Examining Safety, Risk, and Prostitution PolicyJournal of Interpersonal Violence

Blinders. 2005. “Flawed theory and method in studies of prostitutionViolence Against Women

Farley. 2004. “Bad for the body, bad for the heart”: prostitution harms women even if legalized or decriminalizedViolence Against Women

Vanwesenbeeck. 2001. “Another decade of social scientific work on sex work: a review of research 1990-2000Annual review of sex research


About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo
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