Zusammenfassung der Dissertation der Soziologin Anna Kontula
SUMMARY IN ENGLISH by Anna Kontula
The Red Exodus
A study on sex work in Finland
In this study I examine reasons for selling sex as experienced by sex workers. Forced prostitution is rare in Finland as a result of free education, low unemployment and social security benefits that guarantee a minimum standard of living for everyone. I’m interested in why a person in Finland decides to sell sex and thus expose himself/herself to the risks of violence and marginalization involved, when there are other options available.
The study is based on three years of ethnographic field research in the world of the Finnish sex business. My main material consists of the messages on the sex workers’ closed internet discussion channel (11,000 posts from 2003 to 2006) and interviews with 25 sex workers (20 women, two men and three transgender). All my interviewees are prostitutes, but I call them sex workers, since the term is often used to emphasize the agency of workers.
Prostitution is a highly marginalized, stigmatized and invisible phenomenon in Finland. Street soliciting is illegal, foreigners are not allowed to work at all and even offering sex services in private spaces is strictly regulated. Still, the position of sex workers is relatively good. Most of prostitutes work as independent call girls and stay in business for fewer than five years. As the new communication technologies are becoming more and more common, the internet is gradually replacing streets, restaurants and newspapers as a way of finding customers.
For these sex workers, selling sex is an alternative to low-paid and highly controlled jobs in the service sector. They choose sex work because it offers them more autonomy in their work but also because it gives them more free time: one half-an-hour meeting with a customer per day guarantees higher standard of living than full time service jobs available for them.
Even if the sex work research has concentrated on talking about work, it should also be noted that some prostitutes sell sex because of their sexual orientation and interests. It is possible to find many examples of how the experience of control has emancipated sex workers towards more independent sexuality. Sometimes sex work in itself can be pleasurable, but even if we remember that perhaps the most common rating for clients or acts would be ‘indifferent’, there are no clear-cut distinctions between private and commercial sex in relation to prostitutes’ sexual pleasure.
The study shows that it is hard to make any universal statements about sex workers’ experience. In the life of an individual prostitute, depending on different times and contexts, sex work can be either a supporting or a destructive factor. Instead of arguing that commercial sex is inherently an abusive practice, we should consider under what kinds of conditions the sex
work takes place.
Anna Kontula ist eine Soziologin, Sexworker-Aktivistin und Stadträtin in Tampere. Für ihren Kampf für die Rechte der Sexarbeiterinnen hat sie mehrere Todesdrohungen erhalten, weshalb sie ihre Wohnadresse versteckt hält.