My proposed project is a practice-based PhD investigating futuristic sex work, anchored in feminist speculative fiction and contemporary events and debates. I aim to produce a feminist speculative fiction novel and critical dissertation, using sex worker protagonists to dissect spectres haunting our present.
Sex work is critically implicated in pivotal social issues: structural violence; the commodification of care; transactional immigration; gig economies; sexual health; race and gender representations; internet regulation; affective labour; and objectification, agency and consent under capitalism. This positioning also makes sex workers a uniquely intersectional yet focused spyglass for peering into the future.
The novel and accompanying critical reflection will address localised timely questions, filling a significant cultural and knowledge gap: the absence of a feminist dystopian novel set in the UK and narrated through lived experience and the gazes of diverse sex workers.
The PhD addresses issues grounded in our particular context, including phenomena vastly accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic: the move towards a cashless economy and the proliferation of remote work against a background of greater regulation of sexual content on the internet; the increased online presence of the sex workers’ rights movement; the (partly successful) efforts to introduce the Nordic Model (criminalisation of the sex industry through targeting clients) to the UK and proposals to follow the US in banning advertising for sex work online; and wider phenomena, including austerity, anti-migrant policies, ecological crisis and Brexit.
I will employ the tools of speculative fiction to evaluate critically possible incarnations of these current phenomena through a series of near-future and alternate-reality trajectories, interrogating these possible futures with reference to the body of work I am critiquing, while using a spectrum of feminist theories to analyse my creative processes and practices.
As Haraway demonstrates in ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, fantastic bodies are wonderful companions for feminist interventions.