Ordinary men do not walk about carrying powder puffs in their pocket : The legal conceptual blurring of male homosexuality and male sex work

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)33_Other conference paper

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPresented - 11 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


TitleCriminal Law Workshop
LocationUniversity of Auckland
PlaceNew Zealand
Period10 - 11 February 2020


This paper will explore how male homosexuality and male sex work have historically been regulated. It will examine the criminal regulation of male sex work and male homosexuality and show that male sex work and male homosexuality were conceptually and legally not seen as distinct issues; men who sought sex with other men were seen as deviant whether or not this amounted to sex work. Both were subject to the same criminal laws in the late nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth century. During this period provisions in the Vagrancy Act, similar to those applying to female workers soliciting for immoral purposes, were primarily applied to male sex workers and homosexual men without distinction, as well as laws criminalising male homosexuality. In the mid-twentieth century with a growing understanding of homosexuality came a punitive shift and a move to only apply the more severe laws criminalising homosexuality rather than the laws prohibiting solicitation. Following, and perhaps as a direct result of, this harsher period came the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the latter part of the twentieth century. The ensuing decriminalisation of male homosexuality did not lead to sex work laws taking over where laws criminalising male homosexuality left off. This paper will examine the reasons for this legal-conceptual blurring of male homosexuality and male sex work.

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