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Sex Workers, Psychics, and Numbers RunnersBlack Women in New York City's Underground Economy$
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LaShawn Harris

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040207

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040207.001.0001

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“I Have My Own Room on 139th Street”

“I Have My Own Room on 139th Street”

Black Women and the Urban Sex Economy

(p.123) Chapter 4 “I Have My Own Room on 139th Street”
Sex Workers, Psychics, and Numbers Runners

LaShawn Harris

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explores black women's multilayered roles within New York's sex commerce, moving beyond widely accepted historical interpretations that position black sex laborers primarily as street solicitors. Identifying black women as madam-prostitutes, casual prostitutes, and sex-house proprietors and entrepreneurs, this chapter addresses the difficulties of documenting sex work within black communities, the broad socioeconomic conditions and personal circumstances outlining black women's entrance into the urban sexual economy, and the occupational benefits of indoor prostitution. In an attempt to avoid or limit their presence on New York streets, black sex workers—when the opportunity arose—sold and performed sexual services in furnished rooms and hotels, in their own homes, in massage parlors and nightclubs, and in other legitimate and illegitimate commercial businesses. Furthermore, indoor and residential sexual labor was significant to sex laborers' working and personal lives.

Keywords:   sex industry, black sex laborers, sex work, sex industry, urban sexual economy, indoor prostitution, black sex workers, sexual labor

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