Definitions of violence are never merely descriptive. Rather, defining violence is an evaluative and normative project, struggles over which reflect a range of contexts, particularly relations of power. Given this, I argue that feminists should focus on what understandings of violence achieve, rather than striving to provide a conclusive definition. This requires a critical genealogical analysis of discourse. In this article, I undertake such an analysis: exploring how a selection of 21 Westminster policy-actors define violence vis-à-vis sex-work/prostitution, and situating those definitions in the socio-political conditions of their production. I demonstrate how policy-actors drew on a range of logics and technical knowledge to variously frame sex-work/prostitution as reducible to, (irrevocably) associated with, and severable from violence in ways which – I argue – variously served hegemonic and counter-hegemonic ends.
- critical discourse analysis
- violence against women