Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Dramaturgy of Sex Work

There is quite a bit of theatre about 'sex work' in the Fringe this year. Actually. this is a consistent trend - I've been pondering a feature about 'sex work on stage' since 2010, when I wrote a piece about lap dancing. Since many of the subsequent performances on the subject cover similar ground to my review (the gender and economic politics of stripping for the male gaze), I think I deserve a cut of any profits.

I admit an interest: I recently abandoned an essay on 'The Dramaturgy of the Lap Dance,' when I realised that the ethics proposal would be a nightmare and that it would cost me a couple of grand to see the performers (no press pass at the Rhino Club, gentlemen).

In line with my general attitude - that theatre ought to be politically engaged, right up until the point where I have to make difficult moral choices - shows about 'sex work' challenge me. Notice that I put sex work in inverted commas: not because I think it is a vague euphemism for prostitution, but because it covers such a wide range of activities, and I don't think that the continuity between them (sex) is sufficient to make them all part of the same genre.

Let's have a look at what we have this year, off hand.

This one is about those lines that I phone up when I am drunk and am hoping for a bit of human connection, only to end up feeling guilty and frustrated, because it costs too much on my mobile and... I am sorry. I meant to say 'about those lines that one phones up when one is drunk.'

I don't think phone sex and lap dancing are that similar: there are entirely different methodologies behind them, and while both are about getting the green, they provide different aesthetic products (and the commodity, despite being sexual, is different...)

Then there is Sister, which I reviewed here. It does deserve the sex work tag, because it covers quite a few topics (but, contrary to the various reviews, it does not begin with a 'full-on' lap dance. There is a lap-dance, but calling it full-on is exaggerating).

The range of topics within sex work make it very difficult to make the sort of vapid generalisations I like,so I am dividing and subdividing as I go... and thinking about where the lines are drawn, and at what point sex work itself becomes performance.

To be continued.

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