The representation of sex workers in South African media: Danger, morals and human rights

Sally Hunt, Beatrice Hubbard


The ideological construct of gender typically positions women below men, and “others” certain types of women even more, especially those distinguished from idealised femininity by aspects of their sexuality. This paper explores the representation of sex work and sex workers in the South African media in 2009 and 2010, a time during which there was an increase in news coverage of sex work during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Analysis of the two data sets revealed that sex work is still often perceived as immoral and dangerous, and that sex workers – overwhelmingly represented as women – are criminalised for their actions while client agency is largely obscured, which is in line with previous studies of South African newspapers. However, a strong liberal representation of sex workers was also found in one data set, which advocates the decriminalisation of sex work in the context of human rights. The use of the term “sex work” and its derivatives, rather than “prostitution”, was found to index this progressive stance.


sex work, corpus linguistics, critical discourse analysis, South African media

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 2224-3380 (online); 1726-541X (print)

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Powered by OJS and hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2011.


This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.

SUNJournals Help