Street Sex Work: Re/Constructing Discourse from Margin to Center

Jill Linnette McCracken


Newspaper media create interpretations of marginalized groups that require rhetorical analysis so that we can better understand these representations. This article focuses on how newspaper articles create interpretations of sex work that affect both the marginalized and mainstream communities. My ethnographic case study argues that the material conditions of many street sex workers— the physical environments they live in and their effects on the workers’ bodies, identities, and spirits—are represented, reproduced, and entrenched in the language surrounding their work. The signs and symbols that make up these “material conditions” can be rhetorically analyzed in order to better understand how interests, goals, and ideologies are represented and implemented through language. Locating the street sex workers’ voices at its center, my analysis reveals that journalists include and omit words and themes that serve to highlight particular material conditions related to street sex work that influences the reader’s perspective of sex work as a whole. I then offer suggestions for making different language choices that subvert these disempowering ideologies.

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Publication of the Community Literacy Journal is made possible through the generous support of the English Department and the Writing and Rhetoric Program at Florida International University. The CLJ is a journal of the Conference on Community Writing.