Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 221-258

Women on the edge of crime: Crack cocaine and the changing contexts of street-level sex work in New York City

  • L. MaherAffiliated withSchool of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University
  • , R. CurtisAffiliated withVera Institute of Justice and Narcotic and Drug Research Inc.

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In this paper, we attempt to examine, engender and contextualize the theses that (i) “women's emancipation escalates [women's] crime and violence” and (ii) “women's drug use escalates [women's] crime and violence”, by drawing on ongoing ethnographic fieldwork in relation to women crack smokers and the changing contexts of street-level sex work in New York City. The paper attempts to illustrate how the position of women crack smokers can only be understood by locating their lives, their illicit drug use and their income-generating activities within the context of a specific set of localized socio-economic and cultural developments. We suggest that observations from our research refute the theses that women are becoming more criminal and/or violent in the context of either their consumption of crack cocaine or their alleged “emancipation”.