The Principle of Harm as Hegemonic Discourse – The Experience of Female Sex Workers in Indonesia



Cardenas, Charisse M

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This thesis examines prostitution and sex work in Indonesia by drawing from seven weeks of ethnographic research with female sex workers in brothels from three major cities in Indonesia. The experiences of the female sex workers are analyzed within the context of public discourse on prostitution. Utilizing feminist theories of harm, and discourse analysis of sexuality, I argue that public discourse is polarized and has conflicting positions on prostitution as both a form of social harm and as a profession in need of harm prevention. Located within this narrative are the contrasting lived experiences of women who do not conform to either binary of prostitute as victim or professional. By including their stories, I hope to expand the understanding of the complexities of sources of harm and the unexplored opportunities for harm mitigation. This research examines female sex workers’ views on sex work advocacy, brothels as safe spaces of work, and the role of the family as perpetrators of harm.



Sex work, Discourse, Prostitution as harm, Principle of harm, Sex work Indonesia, Sexuality