The Scylla state: an alternative understanding of survival sex work and addiction

HAMER, Rebecca Elizabeth (2022). The Scylla state: an alternative understanding of survival sex work and addiction. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.


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This thesis explores women’s addiction (PDU) and survival sex working (SSW) through a socioeconomic lens that focuses on the exacerbation of deprivation and consequent multidimensional trauma that correlates with neoliberal policies. Instead of bolstering the dominant yet problematic medical, moral or behavioural models, I take an alternative route. I examine PDU and SSW as survival strategies in response to the inequality and distress that emanates from responsibilising, individualising discourse and practice. This began in earnest from 1951 with socioeconomic upheaval and challenges to the welfare state. While the history of socioeconomic deprivation in marginalised communities is long, this thesis focuses particularly on the practices and associated structural changes of neoliberal politics prominent from the tenure of Thatcher and which reached new heights following the 2010 election of the Coalition government. I argue that the associated policies and practices, and their reinforcement by individualising, responsibilising models of PDU and SSW, have contributed to the exacerbation of poverty and multidimensional trauma. Therefore, the impact of these policies and practices is to exacerbate SSW and PDU as women’s struggles for survival become amplified. I conducted in-depth biographical interviews with twenty-three women from post-industrial cities across England and Scotland, including Yorkshire, Lanarkshire and the South-West. All the women have experienced addiction to substances and thirteen identified as having taken part in sex working in order to survive during this period. The research provides several original contributions to knowledge: First, echoing the academic literature that connects women’s PDU and SSW with self- Page | 4 medication and survival strategies it advances this position, using it to directly query dominant individualising and responsibilising models. As a result of these models’ ill fit, I argue that policy and practice is inappropriately underpinned and thus ineffective. My thesis also indicates how policy and practice underpinned by these models can further exacerbate SSW and PDU by responding inappropriately and even adding to women’s deprivation and trauma. I advance the concept of multidimensional trauma to describe the harms that act as drivers behind addiction and barriers to recovery for women, denoting trauma of individual, community and systemic iterations. Finally, I propose the concept of the Scylla State to complement Wacquant’s Centaur State (2009) and provide a much-needed gendered understanding of the consequences of living in neoliberal post-industrial society as a marginalised woman.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Fletcher, Del [0000-0002-9569-3203]
Thesis advisor - Reeve, Kesia [0000-0003-2877-887X]
Thesis advisor - Ferrari, Edward [0000-0002-5506-7670]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Prof. Del Fletcher / Supervisors: Dr. Kesia Reeve and Prof. Ed Ferrari
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2022 15:13
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 15:15

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