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Women sex workers’ embodied experiences of sport, exercise and physical leisure in Aotearoa New Zealand

This thesis focuses on women’s bodies that occupy and move in and between spaces of sex work and sport, exercise and physical leisure. Extending the literature that continues to describe women sex workers as victims, this thesis gives voice to women’s everyday lived experiences, capturing the complex and multilayered realities of their lives. Adopting an ethnographic approach, I provide space for women sex workers to share their experiences of sport, exercise and physical leisure. Drawing on interviews with 17 women sex workers living in Aotearoa New Zealand, and observations at sex work places including clubs, brothels and New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective (NZPC) centres, I explore how women sex workers negotiate their moving bodies in spaces of sport, exercise and physical leisure. Findings are organised into three empirical chapters, each engaging with a different theory to inform the analysis. The first empirical chapter offers a feminist engagement with Pierre Bourdieu to provide an intersectional mapping of the diverse experiences of sport, exercise, and physical leisure that have impacted women’s embodiment from childhood through to adolescence and adulthood. The second chapter draws upon Michel Foucault’s theories of power, technologies, and discourses to examine how institutions of sex work and sport influence bodies, and how women sex workers embody multiple, shifting, and sometimes contradictory subject positions in relation to discourses of sex work and wider social discourses of femininity. The third chapter engages with feminist theories of emotion and affect to understand how disgust, shame, and pride construct affective bodies and spaces that are (inter)personal, collective, and political. The combination of feminist poststructuralist theories and reflexive, embodied methodologies provides a platform for accessing women sex workers’ knowledges and experiences of gender and sex across work and sporting spaces. This research is situated at the intersections of sport, sex work, and women’s bodies, with insights and knowledge that promote inclusion and understanding of the mutually constitutive relationships between them.
Type of thesis
O’Leary, G. (2019). Women sex workers’ embodied experiences of sport, exercise and physical leisure in Aotearoa New Zealand (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12665
The University of Waikato
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