Sex in the city: Why street workers do what they do and where they do it
McQuiller Williams, LaVerne
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Many theoretical perspectives on crime focus either on why individuals commit crime or where crime occurs. Absent from several theoretical perspectives that seek to examine why individuals commit crime, however, are the conditions and contexts that facilitate motivation. Moreover, many studies that seek to answer why crime occurs in particular locations focus on property crimes or personal victimization rather than consensual crimes like prostitution. My research seeks to fill these gaps by explaining the factors that facilitate motivation and how and why place influences the consensual crime of street prostitution. Traditional theories of crime, to a large extent, were developed to explain male behavior and delinquency, and therefore do not sufficiently account for gender differences in crime (Chesney-Lind and Pasko 2004; Price and Sokoloff 2004; Chesney-Lind and Shelden 2004). My research builds on such theories, but also explores to the extent which gendered differences exist among sex workers. Using the case study of Rochester, New York, my study incorporates insights from several theoretical perspectives to explain why individuals engage in street prostitution and where it occurs. Accordingly, my research draws upon strain theory, rational choice theory, routine activities theory, social disorganization theory and collective efficacy theory. Data are drawn from police arrest data collected from the Rochester Police Department from 2003–2007, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, census data, and semi-structured interviews with sex workers, police officers, and an outreach worker. The findings reveal gender differences in the array of facilitating factors that motivate sex workers and in the reasons sex workers gave for selecting and avoiding particular locations for prostitution. Locations where street prostitution is found are affected by situational factors (e.g., locations that sex workers view as safe) and by the ecological conditions and structural characteristics found in specific areas.