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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 2.100

Narrative Struggles in Online Arenas: the Israeli sex workers battle to impact sex work policy


  • Dr. Yeela LAHAV-RAZ

Primary authors


For the last two decades, the struggle in Israel against sex work has been the possession of state actors, NGOs, and journalists, who have spoken “on behalf of” women in the sex industry in their attempts to put an end to commercial sex. A relatively new player in this field is the online arena, especially social media networks such as Facebook. Since 2016, the flourishing Israeli cyberspace has become a battleground between conflicting and contradictory narratives regarding sex work policy and sex workers voices. Based on a mix-method research conducted during 2016-2018, I will present the case study of ""When She Works” (WSW) Facebook campaign which not only create solidarity among sex workers and expressions of resistance to state actors’ traditional views of the Israeli sex industry, but rather constitute the first organization of sex workers in Israel – ""Argaman"". By focusing on WSW actions and outcomes, I aim to demonstrate their battle of opposing the way state actors politics deny the ability of those involved in the sex industry to express their opinions about the policies that directly concern and affect them. As I will show, while state actors regard sex workers as vulnerable subjects in need of protection, the non-state actors, such WSW, are trying to move beyond this sex war dialectic, according to which one is either oppressed or empowered. Thus, they reveal the complex, sometimes even contradictory voices from within the sex industry, and offer a nuanced and less polarised view of sex work.