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Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 419–433 | Cite as

“Women Make That World Go ‘Round”: the Role of Women’s Sexual Capital in the Gendered Scaffolding of Street Life

  • Jennifer K. WeselyEmail author
Article

Abstract

While all girls and women experience sexualization, these experiences differ based on a range of individual-level factors to structural contexts. For marginalized populations of women, such as those on the streets, sexualization can take on a particularly pivotal role. Using in-depth interviews with formerly street-involved women, the study explores the processes through which the street context reified the participants’ dependence on their “sexual capital” in order to survive. While they did exercise some agency over their bodies, the ability to make decisions in this regard dissipated as they became more tethered to street life. Dependence on sexual capital preserved street dynamics that disempowered and damaged them vis-à-vis men, a vulnerable status which effectively sustained the arrangement that harmed them. Control over participants’ sexual capital was usurped by others on the streets as they were traded, sold, and victimized by violence. Ultimately, participants’ experiences suggest that sexual capital is central to the gendered scaffolding upon which the street context is constructed.

Keywords

Qualitative research Sex work Prostitution Sexualization At-risk Street life Women Gender 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Drs. Susan Dewey and Michael Cherbonneau for their thoughtful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this manuscript. The author also thanks the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful recommendations.

Funding

This study was funded in part by an Academic Affairs Faculty Scholarship Development Grant from the University of North Florida.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of North FloridaJacksonvilleUSA

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