5/20/21-Beth Hartman, “Sex Work, Trafficking, and Ethics: Exploitation Creep(s) in Music Studies”

Please join the EthNoise! and Theater and Performance Studies Workshops for

Beth Hartman

 University of Minnesota

Who will Present:

“Sex Work, Trafficking, and Ethics: Exploitation Creep(s) in Music Studies”

Respondent: Eva Pensis, University of Chicago

Thursday, May 20th,

5:00 – 6:30 PM CT

* please note that this is not our usual time *

Join us on  Zoom  (password: creep)

We are committed to making our workshop fully accessible to persons with disabilities. Please direct any questions or concerns to the workshop coordinators, Arianna Gass (ariannagass@uchicago.edu) and Catrin Dowd (catrindowd@uchicago.edu).

ABSTRACT:  In this talk, I discuss how rescue industry rhetoric that conflates sex work with sex trafficking and perpetuates what Janie Chuang describes as “exploitation creep” (2014), has recently found its way into music and sound studies. I highlight the ways scholars can end up repeating unfounded rescue industry claims of widespread victimization; undercutting the agency and insights of both sex workers and trafficked individuals; and using sex work to present themselves as scholar-humanitarians engaged in ethical pursuits, despite having little to no experience researching and writing about the sex industry. To help address the problems associated with exploitation creep in relation to music and sound, I turn to ethnographic research I conducted on gentlemen’s club soundscapes in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota between 2011 and 2015. My research illustrates the importance of ethnography and the need to honestly assess what music can (and can’t) tell us about sexual labor, intimate exchanges, and lived realities.


Beth Hartman is a lecturer in the American Studies, Anthropology, and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Departments at the University of Minnesota. Her current research project examines the relationships between erotic dance and music/sound and focuses primarily on performers and venues in the Twin Cities. An engaged public scholar, Hartman has recently written pieces for the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum in Las Vegas and for artist Monica Sheets’ The Feminist Strip Club project, supported by the Weisman Art Museum. Hartman is also a musician, Minneapolis sex district tour guide, and burlesque performer, producer, and instructor.

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