Books for the News, Sociology

Illegally yours

jacketAs San Franciscans prepare to vote next week on a measure that would decriminalize prostitution in their city, political rhetoric surrounding the issue is heating up. Whether Proposition K succeeds or fails, though, the timeless activities it addresses probably will continue to evolve in response to their changing context. Indeed, as Elizabeth Bernstein points out in Temporarily Yours: Intimacy, Authenticity, and the Commerce of Sex, postindustrial economic and cultural conditions are spawning rapid and unforeseen changes in commercialized sex. Bernstein explains how sex workers in cities such as San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Stockholm are increasingly paid to offer their clients an erotic experience rooted in the performance of authentic connection–a far cry from an expedient exchange of cash for sexual relations.
Dirty Money, a CNBC documentary scheduled to premier next week, cites Bernstein’s insightful analysis in its exploration of the kind of high-end prostitution that made headlines earlier this year when former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was caught making arrangements to meet with a prostitute. CNBC’s interviews with journalists and high-end sex workers dovetail with Bernstein’s powerful argument that contemporary sex markets embody a cultural moment in which the boundaries between intimacy and commerce—and between public and private life—have been radically redrawn.