The ‘ventiloquist’s dummy’ – interpreting interviews as research method

 Wendy Chapkis (Live Sex Acts, Women Performing Erotic Labour. 1997) discussed the problems she faced when interpreting or editing the material from informal discussion based intervews with prostitutes to be used as a research method in the context here of her pro-sex-work stance.

‘one of the ways I attempted to diminish the effect of my own bias was to seek out voices with perspectives different from my own, and to attempt to always include rather than edit out material that made me uncomfortable’

 

Anne McClintock refers to this as the problem of the ‘ventriloquists dummy’ ‘In the arguments of the anti-sex work lobby, the prostitute becomes the other’s other. A mute, cut-out paper doll onto which relatively empowered professional women often project their feelings of sexual frustration, political impotence, and rage. The slave doll image serves as a ventriloquists dummy through which (generally white, middle class) women voice their interests, at the expense of the sex workers’ needs.’

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