This thesis works with my concern that many existing accounts of women's material disadvantage are overly reliant upon a stable notion of gender and sexual identity and offer an account of the process by which women become economically disadvantaged that is far too rigid to capture the complex production of sexual economics. I analyse four different sites of economic activity - unpaid work, credit, paid work, and retirement schemes - for their unique role in gender and sexual identity formation. First I argue that gender and sexuality are actively produced and uniquely scripted as variable effects, or by-products of activity in each site. Second I show how the everyday workings of each site disrupt the roll down logic which assumes that women are poor because they do too much childcare, perform too little paid work, and therefore can neither repay investment loans nor save for retirement.
In chapter 2, on unpaid labouring in the care of others, I decentre the role of caring for children and work instead to establish the economic significance of the unequal exchange of unpaid labouring between adults which is rendered invisible through a script of 'responsible caring'. In chapter 3, on banking lending practice and the provision of credit, I challenge the operating logic which asserts that too much domestic labour leads to too little paid work, lower earnings, and therefore an inability to service loans. I demonstrate the significance of the fact that some entrepreneurs are able to avoid an income test and I argue that women are actively rescripted in this site as 'unacceptably risky.'
In chapter 4 I argue against the idea that responsibility for domestic labour causes under attachment to paid work and demonstrate the critical role that paid work plays in forcing women to do caring labours, all the while blaming women workers through the refigured trope of 'responsibility for children'. In chapter 5 on pensions and superannuation I argue that we can afford to fund pensions through taxation and that therefore the current panic about an aging population operates to position older women as irresponsible and unaffordable. This is achieved through a binary rhetoric that falsely pits 'good superannuation savings' against 'bad welfare spending on age pensions'.
The findings across these four sites of economic activity have several implications for theorising sexual economics. First, each site has its own particular capacities to produce and operate through influential tropes of gender and sexuality. Second, each site of economic engagement has its own unique means of exploiting these circulating ideas of sexuality and gender. Third, therefore, gender and sexual identity are in part effects of these sites and vary from site to site. Fourth, understanding the flexibility of this process can help to make more visible the highly complex ways in which unequal economic advantage of some men and disadvantage of most women can be sustained in the face of contradictions, change, resistance, and widespread popular support for equality.