Unlikely Partners: The Choreography and Politics of Exotic Dancing

Martha L. Shockey, Mount Union College

It has been well documented by myself and others that prostitution is more than just a deviant lifestyle. Sex work is, in reality, an enduring social institution comprised of a complex network of inter-related social roles and relationships that mirror, in many ways, those found in the more conventional institutions of society. Yet, the institution of sex work takes on a life of its own-one that brings social stigma as well as legislative and law enforcement attempts to curb its presence. This paper examines one venue in which prostitution plays itself out-the world of the exotic dancer. It is a qualitative study that focuses on sex work in a small, Midwestern community of 400 residents. Located adjacent to a major metropolitan area, this particular community relies upon gentlemen's clubs, video arcades, and the sale of sex for its livelihood. It is a community bound by the same laws as any other in the state. It is also a community wherein state law and a police presence do little to thwart the sex trade. As I conducted the in-depth interviews necessary for interpretive ethnography I did so with one underlying question in mind: for whom is justice being served?

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Updated 05/20/2006