Finding Sex Work in LCSH

I read Beacher Wiggins’ response to Sanford Berman, [courtesy of Tina Gross, and I suggest you give it a read too!]. Now obviously the first thing I note is that he checks this very blog [thought not by name], but AFTER that fannish-squeeing, I absorb the rest.

There’s a tremendous in there to unpack, and I can’t do it all right now. One pull-out that I do want to highlight is the term ‘Sex workers’.


Sex workers. This phrase was added as a “see” reference to the heading Prostitutes in 2008.


I’m well aware that SEX WORKERS is presently a see-reference to PROSTITUTES. The trouble with that is that “sex workers” is a much broader term, encompassing not only prostitutes, but also exotic or pole dancers, stripteasers, phone sex operators, and erotic film actors, among others.

Side note: that this isn’t the first time criticism has been made of this entry, Hope Olson, the latest and MUCH DESERVED! recipient of the Margaret Mann Citation, notes in her work: “Confirming this perspective, the general heading ‘Prostitutes is a narrower term under the heading ‘Women'” [The Power to Name: Representation in Library Catalogs. Hope A. Olson. Signs, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Spring, 2001), pp 639-668. The University of Chicago Press]

I don’t know when this was changed — as it stands, Prostitutes is not an NT of Women but despite searching the PCC site, I couldn’t turn up the editorial meeting when this was changed. As I’ve lamented before, LCSH is frustratingly bad at version history.

But back to the business at hand.

First, terminology: let’s go to the sources — this is to indicate the scope of the term ‘Sex worker’ covers a variety of services and to also demonstrate its preferred usage.

What is Sex Work?

Sex work is any type of labor where the explicit goal is to produce a sexual or erotic response in the client. Sex work includes prostitution, but it also includes a bunch of other things like erotic dancing, pro-dom/pro-sub work, webcam work, sensual massage, adult film, phone sex, being a sugar baby, etc.

International Union of Sex Workers

We’re a group of people who work in the sex industry and adult entertainment, together with allies who support our aims.

We believe that everyone in the industry, whether they are there through choice, circumstance or coercion, deserves the same human, civil and labour rights as other citizens.

We’re a grassroots organisation, founded by a migrant who worked in a range of jobs in the sex industry. The organisation brings together people from all sectors – people who sell sexual contact or BDSM services, people who work for or run agencies, websites or brothels, strippers, erotic dancers and glamour models, porn actors and film makers, phone sex workers and web cam models; men, women and transgender people; straight, gay and bisexual.

Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights

Sex workers were the first to use the terms sex work and sex worker. The terms have been adopted by numerous international health, labor and human rights organizations, including the United Nations and its affiliated agencies.

The term sex worker is neutral, descriptive and informative without being judgmental. It recognizes sex work as a reality, whatever the speaker’s opinion about the work itself. It does not distinguish by gender, race, ethnicity or creed. It allows the possibility of the worker’s dignity and ability to make decisions. Most of all, it affirms the humanity of the person.

When discussing sex work using existing LCSH, there are a substantial number of terms collocated on the business side of things:

Sex-oriented businesses which has NTs of Adult movie theatersBrothelsGay BathhousesMassage parlorsPornographyProstitution, and Sex tourism.

Following the chain of NTs, we pick up additionally: All-male adult movie theaters, Internet pornography, Male prostitution, Pornographic films, and Telephone sex. [I’m picking only the ones that I think fall into the ‘business-ey’ side of things]

I pause to note that Escort services is an NT of Service industries and has no connection this hierarchy, despite being a pretty well-known euphemism for same.

But there is no overarching BT term for the providers of sexual services. I have identified the following terms which could be usefully placed as NTs.

Lap dancers, Prostitutes, Sex surrogatesStripteasers

Some terms that we don’t have in LCSH but probably should, there’s plenty of literary warrant:


Interestingly, all the memoirs I found written by dominatrices [I have not determined if the plural ‘dominatrices’ is actually a better choice for the preferred term] used Sexual dominance and submission in some capacity rather than following the standard practice for biographies of:

600 [Person’s name]

650 [Class of person] — Biography

which I suppose would’ve necessitated proposing the term. Here’s some good literary warrant:
‘Webcam models’
[note that many of these works are assigned the heading Computer sex which is also not in the hierarchy of Sex-oriented businesses perhaps because it is intended to cover freely exchanged cybersex?]
‘Telephone sex operators’
[As above, Telephone sex  is not in the hierarchy of Sex-oriented businesses]
This is not an exhaustive list, and many other terms as seen enumerated by the organizations are possible — but I think it’s very unlikely LCSH would ever authorize “Pornographic film actor” or anything like that because they don’t have any terms for other genres of actor.

A note: there is a problem in creating an LCSH BT of ‘Sex worker’. And that’s what to do with the term Prostitute itself. In reading for this blog post, it seems that many sex workers would prefer that were the term to be used. But how then to differentiate the category from the specific?
Berman is correct in that we need a BT term ‘Sex workers’. Perhaps I’ll put together a proposal.

Anti-Semitism Actually

I make no secret of being Jewish. I mean, I really don’t. I’ve been disturbed at the increase of anti-Semitism, but also surprised at how many people seem to be flabbergasted that these ideas are “still around” or that this hatred “still lingers”. Much more knowledgable people than I have written about the history and the present of anti-Semitism, and I’ll leave it that to them. I only know from what I’ve experienced first hand, so that’s what I’ll share.

I grew up in Sharon, MA a town known for its high Jewish population. I attended private Jewish day school for K-12 and for three years attended Kingswood, a Jewish sleep-away camp in the summers. My point being that I had a fairly culturally insular life. This story takes places the year before I started going to Kingswood.

At [redacted summer camp] I enjoyed a fairly standard first week. I found the ropes course to be challenging and fun, I’d made a few friends, and I was looking forward to being in a play that summer. Like many groups of young boys, there was one, whom I’ll call ‘Joe’, who was the defacto leader of our little group. He was a taller, more confidant, and had that all-around cool-guy vibe that we all responded to.

Then we had the first barbecue. There was a barbecue every week on Fridays. The food was of course provided, and you could have a hamburger or a hotdog. Because I knew ahead of time that I wouldn’t be able to eat either [coming from a kosher-keeping household] my parents had cleared it ahead of time that it’d be okay if I brought my own meat wrapped in tinfoil [so as not to share the grill with the other non-kosher meat].

So that first Friday I brought a hamburger and a hotdog, wrapped in tinfoil in a cooler. When my new found friends saw that I was having both, they asked why — and I explained that I’d brought them from home, that they were kosher. This is the part that I don’t understand, even today. They latched onto that word. Kosher. I didn’t know them well, and I certainly don’t know them now, I find it hard to believe I was the first Jew they’d ever met, but it’s possible I was the first they’d met who kept strict kashrut. Either way.

Joe did that asshole-kid thing. He refused to ‘hear’ the word or understand it. He kept calling it ‘koshen’ with an ‘n’.

“So you’re koshen? You’re a koshen boy?”

That’s what he called me for the rest of the summer. Koshen boy. Of course, because he did it, so did some of the others. I was out. I finished out the summer, participating in my activities that I’d signed up for, but I didn’t have friends anymore. Sure I knew the people in the activity groups, but it wasn’t camp-friends. The worst part was every Friday. They’d find me wherever I’d gone to eat my single hotdog or single hamburger [somehow thinking if I didn’t bring both it’d be okay] and taunt me.

The next summer I went to an all Jewish summer camp.


This is a relatively small blip in my life, but it was important too. I was pretty sheltered growing up and while I certainly heard of anti-Semitism happening in the US and elsewhere, our community was so insular, it didn’t often happen to people I knew.

Anti-Semitism didn’t start with the Holocaust and it didn’t end there. It knows no national boundary. It may be a rising tide, but if all you see is the tide — you’re missing the ocean.



As always — check out the full approved list



picture of aesthete
Oh this hat is so edifying!

Children’s literature on postage stamps

set of 4 forever stamps of Ezra Keats Snow Day
Forever until the USPS is dismantled and replaced with something horrible

Crab cakes

a birthday cake in the shape of a crab
Happy birthday Megan! I hope you weren’t wanting the other kind of crab cake…

Equality in mass media

scene from The Incredibles "when everyone's super, no one will be"
not too many children’s movies espouse such a Randian “some people are just better than others” message, so that’s fun


sheet music from Erotamania, by Dream Theater
all my Dream Theater friends will get it

Free rider problem (Economics)

still from The Simpsons, Mr. Burns riding on the back of Smither's bike and not pedaling
The rich are the problem


still from "Whiplash'
Sure he’s good, but AT WHAT COST

Las Vegas Strip (Nev.)

still from "Honey I Blew Up the Kids"
I went to Vegas this summer, very disappointed at the lack of Giant Toddler

Metal sculpture, Canadian

Sculpture of star-man, the Rush mascot
I can’t confirm this is actually metal…

Mills and mill-work [edit 2017-02-09, this is not a NEW LCSH, rather, it’s an updated LCSH, thanks to sanspach for bringing to my attention]

Still from Arkham City
Remember that batarang challenge in the steel mill? Ughhhhhhh

Politics on television

Still from Supergirl
I’m pretty sure President Lynda Carter is an alien on Supergirl. But they really haven’t followed up on that.


Surprise parties

still from "District 9"
The real surprise comes when you turn into an alien prawn

Tall buildings–Shading

tweet decrying a new building "Morphosis"
wow people hate the Morphosis

Vampires in popular culture

Collage of pop culture vampires
I will not be wading into the “I Am Legend: vampires or zombies” debate

Women bass guitarists

still of lead singer/bassist of Triosphere
*head bangs*

Women guitarists

still of The Great Kat
*continues headbanging*