A paradoxical combination of moral revulsion and resigned tolerance has permitted the sex industrys uncontrolled development in the underground economy and also impeded research on the phenomena involved. The gaze of researchers as well as government and non-governmental actors remains fixed on individual women who sell sex, while a range of other issues is neglected. In this article, ethnographic material from Spain illustrates how commercial sex is tangled up in culture, suggests a number of issues that open up once the field is defined as cultural and argues that efforts to propose new models of governance on prostitution need the benefit of much more information than is now available.
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