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.


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*


As always — check out the full approved list

A couple notes before we begin:

Male privilege was rejected by the editorial meeting [notes of the editorial meeting] with the following summary:

A proposal for White privilege appeared on Tentative List 10 (2016) and was not approved because LCSH does not include specific headings for groups discriminated for or against, and because other headings have been assigned to works on the concept. The proposal for Male privilege is analogous. Numerous other headings cover the concept of male privilege, including Sexism, Androcentrism, and Male domination (Social structure). The proposal for Male privilege was not approved.

So as the person who proposed Male privilege, I feel responsible for it — here’s my problem with their response.

LCSH absolutely does include “specific headings for groups discriminated for or against”

Some examples:

Discrimination against caregivers.
Discrimination against intersex people
Discrimination against overweight persons
Discrimination against the homeless
Discrimination against the mentally ill
Discrimination against people with disabilities

this is just a small set, there are lots. 

So that reason doesn’t hold water for me.


The other half, that there are already sufficient headings to cover the subject doesn’t wash either.

I don’t want to analyze each term they offer, but none quite capture the concept of male privilege. Some may be decent RTs, but not the same concept. At the very least LCSH needs to acknowledge that it’s an increasingly used term, and consider adding it as a UF. We do not serve our users by denying them an entrance into the catalog.


Birds of Prey (Fictitious characters)

picture from DC Comics' Birds of Prey

Note: Your alias doesn’t have to be a bird

Child ninja

I'd say that's worthy of FULL bars

I’d say that’s worthy of FULL bars

Closet drama, French

R. Kelly's Trapped in the closet

Oui, I am a sexual predator.


I came here to catalog and chew bubblegum

I came here to catalog and chew bubblegum

Database management in libraries



Diamond marimba

diamond jewelry in shape of a xylophone

I know it’s a xylophone, but STILL

Introduced corals

Hi coral!

Hi coral!


I've never played Yu-Gi-Oh!, I have no idea what's going on here

I’ve never played Yu-Gi-Oh!, I have no idea what’s going on here


And people say *Library Science* isn't a real degree!

And people say *Library Science* isn’t a real degree!

Second-born children in literature

Why it's Jaehaerys II of course! Don't tell me you don't know your Targaryen line?

Why it’s Jaehaerys II of course! Don’t tell me you don’t know your Targaryen line?

Ships in motion pictures

Sure it's a lesser Hemsworth, but i'm a sucker for time travel movies

Sure it’s a lesser Hemsworth, but i’m a sucker for time travel movies

Women ski jumpers

wow! jump skis are super long...or maybe that's regular? I've never skied

wow! jump skis are super long…or maybe that’s regular? I’ve never skied



As always — check out the full approved list

Arabian oryx in literature

Fun fact: an anagram for Arabian Oryx is ROAR, ya ax nib!

Fun fact: an anagram for Arabian Oryx 
ROAR, ya ax nib!

Commerce in motion pictures


get it?

Culture jamming

Now what, corporations?

Now what, corporations?

Evil, Non-resistance to, in literature

This is a bad plan, resist evil. Resist.

This is a bad plan, resist evil. Resist.

Flowers–Molecular genetics

I just assume that that's Poison Ivy is workin' on here.

I just assume that that’s Poison Ivy is workin’ on here.

Hypnotism in art

She-Creature isn't even the only episode where an evil hypnotist uses regression to create a monster.

She-Creature isn’t even the only episode where an evil hypnotist uses regression to create a monster.

Mermaids in music

Haken! Check this album out. It'll change yer metal-loving life.

Haken! Check this album out. It’ll change yer metal-loving life.

Obedience in art

Yeah but in like two seconds you're going to get beaten, Zod.

Yeah but in like two seconds you’re going to get beaten, Zod.

Outcasts in literature

Sissy Spacek reads the audiobook, highly recommend!

Sissy Spacek reads the audiobook, highly recommend!

Pokémon Go (Game)

Sure are a lotta fake news stories about Pokemon Go.

Sure are a lotta fake news stories about Pokemon Go.






Chemical is not a dirty word, don’t contribute to fearmongering

Space and time on radio

If you’ve listened to this on the radio, it counts

United States. Constitution–Emoluments clause


I bet it’s not always in the news

Universities and colleges in motion pictures


Wesleyan was a lot like this: Earnest students and insufferable d-bags in the same place



Dance dramas


These aren’t the leads, but they have the best hair

Hanukkah plays


Batman, a traditional part of the Hanukkah story

Library catalogs


ah, the well known “other criteria”

Tracking My LCSH Proposals

Edit 2017-01-24

I learned while at ALA Midwinter that I’d been fundamentally missing a crucial and important step in the creation of subject headings. I wasn’t alerting anybody! I was creating the headings in the ClassWeb system and had somehow thought that people at LC were automatically alerted to their existence. That is not the case.

I should’ve been sending an email to SACO each time I created a heading needing evaluation.

In conclusion — I chastise myself for having been critical in my presentation at the Faceted Subject Interest Group at ALA Annual ’16. Though the process is complicated, I wasn’t in a position to criticize it when I didn’t full understand it.

Original post: Partly for my own edification, and partly for just seeing a bit more about how sausage is made, I’ll be keeping track here of when I propose an LCSH, versus when it’s evaluated by the PSD. (Also including ones I worked on if I didn’t propose them directly)

An asterisk means I sent them to Paul Frank, which I note because his power to push them into the queue quickly is significant.

  • Gaza War, 2014
    • Entered 2016-02-18
    • Added
  • Farhud, Baghdad, Iraq, 1941
    • Proposed 2016-05-20
    • Added
  • Asexuality*
    • Proposed 2016-02-02
    • Added 2016-07-13
  • Asexual people*
    • Proposed 2016-02-02
    • Added 2016-07-13
  • Berit (The Hebrew word)
    • Proposed 2016-03-11
    • Added 2016-06-02
  • Cisgender people*
    • Proposed 2016-03-29
    • Added 2016-06-02
  • African American sexual minorities*
    • Proposed 2016-03-29
    • Added 2016-06-02
  • Boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement
    • Proposed 2016-05-10
    • Added
  • Priests in rabbinical literature
    • Proposed 2016-05-26
    • Added 2016-09-09
  • Death of God in literature
    • Proposed 2016-08-10
    • Added
  • Alien artifacts*
    • Proposed 2016-08-22
    • Added 2016-11-09
  • Charity — Religious aspects
    • Proposed 2016-08-22
    • Added
  • Male privilege*
    • Proposed 2016-10-31
    • Rejected 2016-12-19
  • Anti-vaccination movement
    • Proposed 2016-11-04
    • Added
  • Letterers [LCDGT term]
    • Proposed 2017-01-25
    • Added
  • Bachelors in Rabbinical literature
    • Proposed 2017-01-27
    • Added
  • Nakba, Palestine, 1948
    • Proposed 2017-01-27
    • Added


As always — check out the full approved list

New LCSH is not going to fix this

A couple notes from the editorial meeting before we begin:

The following subdivisions will be added to lists of free-floating subdivisions:

  1. H 1147, Animals
    $x Phenology (May Subd Geog)
  2. H 1156, Literatures
    $x Garifuna authors
  3. H 1195, Land Vehicles
    $x Motors $x Exhaust manifolds


Also, I’m sure you know that ‘White privilege’ was rejected again by the PSD. April Hathcock has written about this, and you should go read what she wrote. I want to add that this is the second time that they’ve rejected the term, and this time it strongly seems like they’re not amenable to reevaluating it.


LCSH does not include specific headings for groups discriminated against. Numerous works about white privilege have been assigned the headings Race discrimination and Whites—Race identity, and the meeting wishes to continue that practice. ”

Leaving aside the fundamental misunderstanding of what white privilege is that this statement belies, it sounds like barring a major shift in their practices, they won’t revisit this decision.

African American biologists

Picture of A. Oveta Fuller

A. Oveta Fuller! Discovering B5 receptors all over the place

Airplanes on television

still from tv show "Lost"

Aircraft accidents — $z The Island

Alien artifacts

Still from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Don’t touch it! It’ll make you evolve! Or Something!

Askenazic cooking

Matzo Brei a Jewish recipe of dampened matzo crackers fried with eggs.

Best part of Pesach is that tasty tasty matsah brei

Bicycle racing–Religious aspects

Cross made of bicycles

Jesus would never dope.

Capsule toys

Standing capsule toy vending machine

Terrible use of a quarter

Emotion recognition

Emotion recognition software image

I dunno Microsoft, he looks more *stoked* to me…

Island life

Magic the Gathering card, Island Fish Jasconius

I used to have two of these! I liked the rhythm of its name

Jewish novelists

Picture of Rebecca Walker

Rebecca Walker wrote her first novel in 2013, check it out

Parricide in motion pictures

Cover of "Perfect Sisters" movie

Bonus points if you can find the post where I already used this picture!

Queen snake

Picture of snake in a crown


Rash family

T-shirt that says 'RASH'

If I ever let a Rush reference go by, you’ll let me know, right?


An RDA toolkit, a vaping thing

The other RDA toolkit

Winds in motion pictures

Still from 'Gone with the Wind'

Frankly my dear, this isn’t the scene where I say that line

Yarn bombing

a tank that has been yarn-bombed

This is the only kind of pink military equipment I want to see


As always — check out the full approved list

New LCSH (I’m tired of making a joke for each headline)


A couple notes before we begin:

The following subdivisions will be added to lists of free-floating subdivisions:

  1. H 1147, Animals$x Disease resistance (May Subd Geog)
  2. H 1180, Plants and Crops$x Effect of sediments on (May Subd Geog)

Bisexual men–Relations with women

Still of Frank and Claire Underwood from House of Cards

Some people think bisexuality isn’t real.

Bow and arrow in literature

Scarlet Arrow, golden age comics figure

First I distract them with my foppish costume, then *ZWING* with the arrow!


Cleaner fishes

cleaner fish cleaning an eel

“It’s a living”

Comic strip characters on televisions


Supergirl (CW) flying

Nice to finally have ONE superhero who actually enjoys their powers


Demonology in music

album cover for Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden

forget demonology, how great is that bass part tho

Ghostbusters (Fictitious characters)

promotion still from Ghostbusters (2016)

These gals got the term into LCSH, so there you go

Jedi (Fictitious characters)

Every Jedi Ever

that’s an awful lotta Jedis, sorry y’all got killed

Liberty in music

Starman, Rush logo

Let the truth of love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear.
Sensibility, armed with sense and liberty,
With the Heart and Mind united in a single perfect Sphere.

Sikh engineers

picture of Dr. Singh, engingeer faculty at Santa Clara University

Dr. Singh rockin’ the cyan

Skateboarders in art

He looked back at the skateboard marks in the sand. He noticed that many times along the half-pipe of his life, there was only one set of burnt rubber. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, You said that once I decided to follow You, You'd ollie with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed You most You would leave me." The Lord replied, "My son, My precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I did the sickest indy nosebones"

He looked back at the skateboard tracks.
He saw that some times along the half-pipe of his life, there was only one set of burnt rubber.
He noticed that it was at the times he ate the most pavement.
This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, You said that once I decided to tailgrind with You, You’d ollie with me all the way. I don’t understand why when I needed You most You would leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My son, My precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of wheels, it was then that I did the sickest indy nosebones”


Women athletes with disabilities

Picture of Bethany Hamilton

Still surfing waves and takin’ names.