Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Prostitution, Human trafficking, Psychoanalysis, Oppression (Psychology), Male domination (Social structure), Sex discrimination, Race discrimination, Theoretical, Sex work, Commercial sexual exploitation, Sex trafficking, Intersectionality, Relational psychoanalytic theory, Race, Gender


This paper brings intersectional theory into conversation with relational psychoanalytic theory to examine how the interlocking oppressions of race, class, and gender shape and sustain the commercial sexual exploitation of women, and how an intrapsychic analysis can shed light on women's entry into prostitution, they challenges they face in attempting to escape it, and considerations for psychotherapy with prostituted women. This paper attempts to bridge the gap between sturctural and intrapsychic analyses of prostitution, examining the interaction between structural oppression and intrapsychic processes that script multiply marginalized women for prostitution. This analysis challenges the notion of the universal "sex worker" subject, examining how the perpetuation of this narrative obscures the profoundly raced and classed aspects of commercial sexual exploitation. In bringing relational psychoanalytic concepts to bear on commercial sex and the women engaged in it, this paper attempts to illuminate the potential offered by contemporary relational thought for nuanced theoretical conceptualizations of prostituted women seeking treatment, and for the psychotherapeutic approaches that take into account women's experiences of oppression, internalized subordination, and complex trauma. By bringing together an analysis of the role of interlocking oppressions in prostitution with a relational approach to psychodynamic therapy, this paper aims to encourage psychotherapists and social service providers to think critically about how best to understand and meet the needs of prostituted women.




iii, 116 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 100-116)

Limited Access until August 2020