Sex Industry Pictures: Sex work, sex tourism, brothels, history

There is now a sex industry picture gallery on this website intended to informally illustrate the variety of commercial sex. Nothing x-rated in it, actually, but the gallery shows something of the diversity of activities and places encompassed in the idea of a sex industry, across time and geography. By no means encyclopedic or representative it also does not include every picture ever used on this website. The gallery is imported from facebook, where I have been keeping it for the past couple of years; I didn’t take the pictures myself but have given credit where I could. Contact me if an uncredited picture is yours and you want your name to appear or the photo removed or if you have more details about a picture (or comment directly on the picture’s page).

The collection is part of my effort to break down the monolithic term prostitution that exercises such a strong hold on the popular imagination. People say prostitution as though it were completely obvious what it means, as though we all knew – and then, quite often, as though we all were in agreement that it is bad and wrong. Nearly every media article reporting about the sex industry uses the same tired image of a woman in fishnet stockings and high heels or high boots leaning into a car window or standing in the street waiting for a car to stop. This stereotype is what sticks in everyone’s brain and is associated with the sex-money exchange that most bothers everyone: the one that neighbourhood leaders protest about, and police try to get rid of, and researchers show to be most violence-prone and where the classic pimp figure is most likely to be seen.

In this collection, people are often shown socialising, not just standing about being symbols. Some of what’s shown is undoubtedly not fair and not legal, but only if we understand what people are actually doing can we hope to improve the world overall. Included here are images of tourism and sex worker activism, both interesting facets of the industry in our times. Campaigning against the industry is not included – you can find those images all over the place.

Words are my own usual vehicle, as in my proposal for a Cultural Study of Commercial Sex, which I have written about several times. But images do something else. I look at pictures to process ideas differently, and I actually like that this gallery doesn’t classify in any way – there is no meaning to the order of the images, though facebook provides the date on which I happened to decide to upload the pictures to that website. The whole collection, which updates when I update at facebook, is a page on the menu at the top of this site.

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