Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis


Politics and International Relations

Reader 1

Piya Chatterjee

Reader 2

Mark Golub

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© 2014 Tessa Paoli


This is an investigation of the sex workers’ rights movement in San Francisco. My project is aimed at demystifying the movement and taking its aims seriously in order to see how it has succeeded and failed. This investigation analyses the mainstream rhetoric of the sex workers’ rights movement in San Francisco, and also uncovers sex work narratives that push against societal ideas of legitimate work, empowerment, agency and resistance.

This investigation is divided into two chapters. My first chapter titled “COYOTE to the St. James Infirmary: A Historical Analysis of the sex workers’ Rights Movement in San Francisco” is inspired by Kathi Weeks’ analysis of the movement for domestic wages in the 1970’s and argues that the early movement succeeded in challenging normative ideas of work and sexuality, but ultimately failed because of the exclusion of sex workers of color and/or gender nonconforming sex workers from the movement.

Chapter II, titled “The Silenced Scripts of Sex Workers: Histories Written from Below” uses Paul Apostolidis’ Grascian framework to explain why an investigation of sex workers’ zines, podcasts, blogs and magazines are essential in understanding theoretical themes that underlined the rhetoric of the sex workers’ rights movement in San Francisco. I argue that these narratives must be included in mainstream discourses surrounding sex work in order for sex workers to gain rights and remain safe on the streets of San Francisco.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.