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'Who's got the look?' Emotional, aesthetic and sexualized labour in interactive services

Warhurst, Chris and Nickson, Dennis (2009) 'Who's got the look?' Emotional, aesthetic and sexualized labour in interactive services. Gender, Work and Organization, 16 (3). pp. 385-404. ISSN 0968-6673

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Abstract

This article examines sexualized work and, more particularly, how and why, at the organizational level in interactive services, employees become sexualized labour. In doing so it assesses the thin line between selling a service and selling sexuality. The analysis revisits existing literature on emotional labour, organizational aesthetics and workplace sexuality, noting the common concern in this literature with employee's appearance or looks. The article argues that the current conceptualization of interactive services and sexualized work is partial and blunt; either because it does not adequately incorporate employee corporeality or because it fails to distinguish between the different forms of sexualized work. A better conceptualization is achieved by incorporating aesthetic labour into the analysis, demonstrating how it is extended to sexualized labour employees to have a particular corporate look. From this analysis it is argued that a conceptual double shift is to be needed to understand sexualised labour, firstly, from emotional to aesthetic and sexualized labour and secondly, from an employee sexuality that is sanctioned and subscribed to by management to that which management strategically prescribes.