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Sex Work, Automation and the Post-Work Imaginary

  • Stardust, Zahra
  • Hester, Helen
Publication Date
Sep 14, 2021
Queensland University of Technology ePrints Archive


There is no doubt that automation is changing work. The widespread automation of industrial and service jobs has sparked concerns that robots will bring about the ‘end of work’ – although we should perhaps be more concerned about changes to the ways in which work is allocated, managed, and overseen, than with the highly unlikely proposition that technology will soon eradicate work altogether. For theorists associated with post-work ideas, the changing labour conditions of the twenty-first century present a moment of political opportunity. If many jobs are in fact ‘bullshit jobs’, incapable of delivering social equality or purpose, then perhaps work is the problem rather than the solution. Unfortunately, however, post-work ambitions often focus on a fairly narrow subsection of waged labour, and simply assume that historically ‘feminised’, reproductive and undervalued forms of labour – such as childcare, healthcare and elder care –will continue much as they are. Sex workers have argued that ‘sex work is work’ for the last four decades. Many turn to sex work as an alternative to ‘straight jobs’, due to employment discrimination or for flexibility to manage chronic illness, disability, study or carer responsibilities. Exchanging sex can be survival work when other options are unavailable. But as precarious labourers in a hustle economy, sex workers have simultaneously been organising against the glorification of work. As well as contesting the structural oppressions that shape sex work, sex workers are demanding that access to social services, healthcare, housing and dignity should not be conditional upon the status of work.

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