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In any given industry, machines are rapidly replacing workers. Alternately celebrated as the liberation of the worker from the grind and peril of manual labor and lamented as the condemnation of the worker to lowered wages and/or the effeteness of unemployment, so-called “advances” in technology problematically recast the labor-capital relation as a human-machine relation. What does this process look like in the context of a criminalized industry like the sex industry? In this paper, I examine the way in which cyberprostitution — ostensibly, an advance in the technology of communication — places the conceptual terrain of prostitution into question. For those of us who thought we knew the ins and outs of prostitution — what it is, who does it, and how they do it — cyberprostitution is rapidly proving to be a proverbial monkey wrench in the works. Examining both the American legal system’s struggle to insert cyberprostitution into a structure of rights and obligations, and the Sex Worker Rights Movement’s struggle to harness cybertechnology to social justice rather than the profit motive, provides an important and likely short-lived window of opportunity for an honest moment of reckoning with a naked emperor previously and pervasively dressed up and trotted out as “Prostitution.” Provocative site of the perpetual conflict Marx posited between the “material productive forces of society” and “the existing [property] relations of production” under capitalism, cyberprostitution requires feminists and queer theorists alike to radically reconsider not only conventional paradigms of prostitution — but also of nation-state, sex, and work.


2009 Law and Humanities Junior Scholar Workshop selection.