Glasnik Etnografskog instituta SANU 2006 Volume , Issue 54, Pages: 201-217
doi:10.2298/GEI0654201B
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Condom as a professional symbol among the persons engaged in sex work in Belgrade

Baroš Slađana

Based on qualitative research data, this article exams the meaning of condom among persons engaged in sex work. Sex-work is a specific activity, with a sex service being an object of economic transaction. In order to delineate private sexual relationship and business sexual relationship sex workers rely on a professional code. Abiding to this code is valued positively by the professional group whereas disrespecting it leads to stigmatization of the offender within the group. The basic markers separating professional and private life in a continuum of sexuality are money as a sign and condom as a symbol. Use of condom during the sex-work relation is a symbol of correct approach to work and as such marks the border between professional and unprofessional way for doing the job in addition to marking the border between work and private life. The data show that within this borderline area in real-life situations, complex interactive relationship between sex-workers and their immediate environment leads to discrepancies in the consistency of condom use. The lack of consistent condom is present when a client or type of service is perceived as safe, i.e. carries the meaning of the category "with condom", or when some ambiguous environmental circumstances are present such as influence of the police or pimps, protectors and people related to private life of sex-worker. In the field of sex-work, condom grows from an object of infection prevention into an object that symbolizes professional ethics within sex-work and, in that way, it keeps an atmosphere of a healthy and clean private life for sex-workers.

Keywords: sex-work, condom, symbol, privacy, profession, the practice of sex-work, risk environment

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