I would like to talk about the connection between welfare reform "as we know it," and the potential for increased state support for the prostitution of women. In particular, I would like to discuss the work requirements found in both federal and state welfare reform statutory schemes. I worry that these work requirements will sanction the prostitution of poor women, particularly poor women of color, lesbians, and other women with children who are already forced to live their lives at the economic and social margins of society. I worry that the work requirements found in the new welfare regime will encourage the state to push more women into prostitution or other forms of legalized sex-work under the guise of prostitution and other sex-work as "legitimate work." In this essay, I would like to argue that one of the results of the restructuring of welfare is the institutionalization of the state as a pimp or as the procurer of women for prostitution. To this end, I would like to talk briefly about the structure of the welfare reform, it's requirement that every "abled-body" adult engage in waged labor, and the stereotyping of poor women vis a vis their sexuality and their work ethic; I would like to discuss, again briefly, the structure of prostitution (and other sex-work) in this country, precisely I want to talk about the conditions under which prostituted women "work"; and finally I want to argue that prostitution isn't "work", and that by normalizing the idea that prostitution is "work," we participate in pushing more poor women into the prostitution and sex-work industry through the vehicle of the welfare reform mandates.


Symposium: Re-Orienting Law and Sexuality