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While all girls and women experience sexualization, these experiences differ based on a range of individual-level factors to structural contexts. For marginalized populations of women, such as those on the streets, sexualization can take on a particularly pivotal role. Using in-depth interviews with formerly street-involved women, the study explores the processes through which the street context reified the participants’ dependence on their “sexual capital” in order to survive. While they did exercise some agency over their bodies, the ability to make decisions in this regard dissipated as they became more tethered to street life. Dependence on sexual capital preserved street dynamics that disempowered and damaged them vis-à-vis men, a vulnerable status which effectively sustained the arrangement that harmed them. Control over participants’ sexual capital was usurped by others on the streets as they were traded, sold, and victimized by violence. Ultimately, participants’ experiences suggest that sexual capital is central to the gendered scaffolding upon which the street context is constructed.
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- “Women Make That World Go ‘Round”: the Role of Women’s Sexual Capital in the Gendered Scaffolding of Street Life
Jennifer K. Wesely
- Springer US