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When Event Spaces and Commercialised Sex Spaces Overlap: Gendered discourses of sex work and the Olympic Games

In the past decade, debates regarding the sex industry, especially street-level sex work, have become exacerbated by the hosting of global sporting events. Such issues as displacement, safety concerns and financial cuts to social services have contributed to the problematisation of the overlap between mega event spaces and commercial sex spaces. The different approaches that destination cities have implemented to address these aspects of the urban environment reflect the political and economic geographies of sex work and the post-colonial perspective of sex worker as criminal or victim (Agustin, 2008; Hubbard, 1998). This research focuses on a case study of Vancouver as host of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and examines the situation when commercial sex spaces become event spaces. Qualitative research methods have been conducted in the form of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with city officials, police, former sex workers, academics, NGO’s and women’s charities.

The landscape of the sex industry in Vancouver is analysed in an effort to illustrate the impacts that the preparations for the Olympic Games has on the urban environment. Gendered discourses concerning sex workers’ rights to the city and how debates regarding criminalisation of demand/legalisation of sex work are linked to constructions of public space are also analysed (Doezema, 2001; Farley, 2003; Hubbard, 2001; Kempadoo, 2003). There is scope from the findings of this research to inform the dynamics of inclusion/exclusion in diverse European contexts, as more and more cities and countries bid for and host large-scale events.

(abstract authors’ own)


Finkel, Rebecca and Matheson, Catherine M