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Conversations on Europe. "Prostitution Reform as a Symptom of EU Integration Anxieties."

Thursday, April 5, 2012
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University.

This talk is excerpted from Mattson's book manuscript interpreting recent European conflicts over prostitution regulation.

EU conflict over prostitution occurred during a time of unprecedented consensus—dropping internal borders, a new currency, drafting a Constitution, incorporating 15 new members, and plans to harmonize immigration and justice systems. Between 1998 and 2004, eleven parliaments in the European Union (EU) debated whether to regulate prostitution at the national level, imposing a single definition over something that had, until then, been regulated by cities. The Netherlands and Germany legalized prostitution, recognizing “sex work” and imposing workplace standards. Sweden and Finland, on the other hand, abolished prostitution from the public sphere and, in Sweden’s case, criminalized the purchase of sex. Though these policies are sharply at odds, both regimes rationalized prostitution by imposing a single national definition that overrode the old systems of community discretion.
The prospect of further European integration made the migrant female prostitute a powerful symbol of vulnerability that dramatized the proper role of the state and the market in citizens’ lives. For Germany and the Netherlands, migrant prostitutes were vulnerable workers, while in Sweden and Finland they were symbols of weakened gender protections. Though new reforms spanned the ideological spectrum, all increased state control of sexuality to protect national ideals in the face of threats from the EU and globalization—anxieties that subsequently derailed the EU project.
Greggor Mattson, is an assistant professor of sociology and law and society at Oberlin College where his research investigates the public regulation of private behavior. This talk is excerpted from his book manuscript interpreting recent European conflicts over prostitution regulation, research that was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and a Fulbright Scholarship to the European Union. He holds degrees in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, Oxford University and the George Washington University.