Working Girl: On Selling Art and Selling Sex
The portrait of a young artist making both a living and a life
As a young artist trying to make a living in New York without sacrificing all her time to paying rent, Sophia Giovannitti turned to sex work: first, telling herself it was part of her art, and then quickly accepting it as simply the way to make the most money in the shortest possible time. Weaving between the art world and the sex industry, she learned how much the two markets have in common: both built on the buying and selling of creativity and desire, authenticity and intimacy. The power of each lies in believing—or pretending—they can provide meaning outside of monetary exchange.
In this searching and provocative work, moving from the author’s own experiences to political analyses and the workings of the contemporary art world, Giovannitti asks how we might face the great dilemma of the art and sex industries head on: what happens to desire, beauty, creativity, and autonomy when everything is a transaction? Giovannitti finds a way to commit her life to art, to intimacy, and to freedom on her own terms.
Praise for Working Girl: On Selling Art and Selling Sex
"Highly original and unnervingly smart, Working Girl strips bare the worlds of art work and sex work, revealing unlikely parallels. In Giovannitti's informed and elegant analysis, sex and art come soaked in capitalist relations, their potential for holiness no barrier to the all-encompassing reach of commodification. Working Girl is fascinating in its specificity - the product of Giovannitti's lived experience in a particular niche of both industries - and through this comes a treatise that is both hopeful and new."
—Frankie Miren, author of The Service
"I love this book. It's fresh, exacting, and spaciously precisely unfettered. A book with a clear purpose fulfilled. Read it."
—Sarah Michelson, artist
"An art object that also verbs in the most pleasurable way possible. Filled with clarity and a generous spirit, Sophia Giovannitti's Working Girl is a singular sensation you immediately feel the power of while reading. And later, as you begin to release all your outdated beliefs, you then realize Working Girl completely turned out in the best way possible: you too can be the art object that verbs"
"Between the sex worker and art worker is a tension that defines the contemporary commodification of bodies, genders, time and desires. Working Girl documents Giovannitti's critical and creative interventions into this fraught and fascinating zone. She invites us to be more than voyeurs, and to think with her what is at stake in the art of sex and the sex of art"
—McKenzie Wark, author of Capital is Dead
"In Working Girl Sophia Giovannitti considers the material and metaphorical overlap between the sexual and artistic marketplaces"
—Josephine Houman, Public Seminar
"Giovannitti writes with candor and complexity about a life at the center of two of her greatest cultural preoccupations: sex and capitalism."
—Maggie Lange, Bustle, Most Anticipated Books Of Spring & Summer 2023
"Giovannitti mines both her personal experiences as an artist and a sex worker as well as larger political ones to traces the ways the worlds of art and sex work have in common. In doing so, she finds a way to commit to art, sex, and work on her own terms - finding freedom within the larger forces at work."
—Most Anticipated Books of May 2023, Nylon
"Giovannitti dances between memoir, art criticism, and political theory to unknot a provocative tension: how our supposedly 'sacred' fields of erotic and aesthetic experience are born out of systems of commodification."
—Jamie Hood, Vulture
"[An] incisive debut memoir...Giovannitti's explorations of controversial topics are sharp and stirring, and her provocative observations will prompt debate. This deserves to be grappled with."
"In five chapters that move easily between cultural criticism, art theory, and sharply observed personal experience, Giovannitti raises fresh inquiries around fantasies of autonomy and authenticity in worlds heavily mediated by capital."
"Threading together memoir and criticism, her volume charts a journey through contemporary art addressing prostitution and pornography, the blind spots of movements like MeToo, the politicized actions of sex workers, and finding a way to live beyond labor."
—Wendy Vogel, e-flux
"Working Girl suggests the appeal or even revolutionary potential of relating in such an upfront, contractual manner…a cleansing element to addressing things in such blatant terms, equity in considering one's time worth good money."
—Kate Wolf, Momus
"Brilliant ... [Giovannitti's] gripping subject matter offers an accessible yet imaginative route into those intersections of sex work and the art market, from the perspective of a person with has lived experience of both."
—Rachel Ashenden, The List
"Art and sex have always been intertwined, but Giovannitti thinks we're getting it all wrong. Drawing on theorists and experience, both as an artist and sex worker, she avoids easy reactions like outrage, instead rethinking how everyone can benefit from a sexy inquiry into the nature of art"
—Adriana E. Ramírez, The best new books for summer 2023, The Boston Globe
"Incorporating eclectic references, from the French theory collective Tiqqun to the transgender artist Tourmaline, Working Girl is a pointillistic contemplation of labor and the varied ways we choose to contextualize and deny it. It's also a declaration of Giovannitti's confidence 'to discern for myself what is meaningful and what is bullshit' in a capitalistic landscape that shapes the most intimate parts of our lives."
—Rose Courteau, Cultured
"A personal, provocative and, above all, sharply intelligent exploration of the contemporary world, and how to survive and even thrive within it."
—Eloise Hendy, Dazed
"As Giovannitti expounds on the negotiations and violations that she sees in both industries, as well as glimmering moments of community, beauty, and anarchy, she draws on her own experience and carefully crafted critical lens, rather than accepting prevailing frameworks and prefabricated imaginaries."
—Cassie Packard, Brooklyn Rail
"Giovannitti brings a fresh criticality ... when considering how expectations of intimacy and creativity intersect with workers' rights and autonomy within late-stage capitalist anxiety."
—Esmé Hogeveen, Frieze
"Sophia's deft, precise, and intriguing in describing the everyday details of her world-and also floating thousands of feet above and seeing the whole structure move. It's one of the best things I've read recently about labor, commodification of intimacy, manufacture of fantasy, precious time on earth, the list goes on."
"Magnetic and erudite...[Giovannitti's] intelligence is a kind of beautiful obliteration; her disdain for work and capitalism shimmers, while also proffering the profound devotion she has for art."
—Ayden LeRoux, The Los Angeles Review of Books