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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Journal of Lesbian Studies

For a Special Issue on
Lesbians, Sex Work, Resistance

Abstract deadline
01 August 2022

Manuscript deadline
01 November 2022

Cover image - Journal of Lesbian Studies

Special Issue Editor(s)

Jennifer Worley, City College of San Francisco
[email protected]

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Lesbians, Sex Work, Resistance

At the height of the feminist sex wars, Joan Nestle published "Lesbians and Prostitutes: An Historical Sisterhood," which traced the discursive relationships between two sexualized categories of outlaw women. Since then, the landscapes of both lesbian life and the sex industry and have shifted dramatically: Legal and social changes have removed many of the economic conditions that made survival sex work necessary for working class lesbians, and the sex industry -- once largely confined to the counter-public of the red-light district, now operates via the same devices used to text our colleagues and order groceries.

While these shifts have reconfigured the "Historical Sisterhood" named by Nestle, the connection endures, and this special issue explore that persistent relationship. We seek essays from a range of disciplines, including history, literature, economics, sociology, psychology, film, cultural studies, and political science.

Possible areas of investigation:


  • What historical intersections can be traced between lesbian communities and sex work?
  • How have legal, social, economic, and linguistic shifts reconfigured the ties we observe or imagine between lesbians and prostitution?
  • How have butches, studs, aggressives, and machotas approached and engaged in sex work?
  • How have new technologies -- from printing press to artificial intelligence -- shaped the sex industry and the experiences of lesbians with/in it?


  • How have lesbians and sex workers (or lesbian sex workers) been depicted in film, TV, fiction, memoir, poetry, the graphic novel, photography, or installation art?
  • How have queer sex-workers used first person genres -- memoir, personal narrative, the novel, the blog, the tweet -- to interrupt their own objectification?
  • What viewing/reception strategies have lesbians enacted in relation to the pornographic mode?
  • What forms of sex work have lesbian cultures generated or supported?
  • How have recent, popular representations of sex workers such as Zola, The Deuce, or Harlots engaged lesbian desire?

Racial Justice & Sex Work:

  • How has racial justice spurred organizing efforts in the sex industry, such as Portland's Black-led Strippers' Strike, or San Francisco's Exotic Dancers Union?
  • What roles have lesbian and queer women of color played in movements for sex workers rights?
  • In what ways does the sex industry exploit the racialization of workers? How do sex workers resist or commandeer that racialization?
  • What role has sex work played in the formation and economic survival of lesbian of color communities and identities?

Organizing and Workers' Struggles:

  • What relationships can be traced between mid-century homophile movements, gay and women's liberation movements, queer/AIDS activism, and sex-worker organizing?
  • What roles have lesbians played in sex-workers' struggles, from the American Massage Parlor strike in the 1970s, to the Lusty Lady Worker Co-op of the 2000s, to more sex-work critical operations such as the anti-trafficking movement?
  • How are sex-workers responding to gigification, virtualization, and/or automation in the sex industry?

Reframing the Sex Wars

  • How might we understand recent critiques of porn and sex work from Gen Y women (Christine Emba's Rethinking Sex, Louise Perry's The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, singer Billie Eilish's revelations about porn's damaging impact on her)?
  • How might we incorporate these Gen Y critiques into more complex theories of lesbian or queer sexualities?
  • What common ground can we begin forge between polarized feminist positions around sex work as either inherently liberating/empowering or inherently harmful/objectifying?

Submission Instructions

We welcome essays from any disciplinary perspective, of up to 5,500 words. We also encourage submissions of shorter pieces, experimental articles, as well as visual art and poetry. Please send your 250-500 word proposal to Jennifer Worley, Professor of English, City College of San Francisco: [email protected]

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