It’s often claimed that the “average age of entry” into sex work is under 18, sometimes as young as 12-14. While this myth has been debunked many times (most recently here), it continues to spread, in part due to the lack of reliable data on the true average age.

So what is the true average age? A precise figure is unobtainable, as we will never have a representative sample of sex workers. Nonetheless, it may be possible to shed some light on the subject by looking at the age of entry findings from different pieces of research. We at Sex Work Research have decided to host a page where age of entry stats can be compiled – not for the purpose of replacing one unreliable stat with another, but just to get a better sense of what research on this subject has actually found.

Inclusion in this compendium does not imply endorsement of the study or its methodology. We simply want a broad overview of the research. This is a work in progress, and data will be added as we find it. Please feel free to suggest additional studies in the comments (preferably with links). They will be added to this post when time allows. Read More

INDOORS Project (Veronica Munk, ed.), “Pictures of a Reality: Sex workers talk about their life and work experiences within the indoor sex work setting in nine European cities”. Autres Regards, Marseille, October 2012.

“The aim of this book is to dismantle the idea that sex work is a uniform universe where sex workers are part of one and the same group.

This exhibition presents sex workers in their entire complex human dimension, which is composed of all sorts of opinions on the same subject, of joy and fear over their work, of happiness and doubts regarding their lives.

These are, then, the main objectives of Pictures of a Reality: to show the diversity within the sex work context, the multiplicity of its population, but also to dismantle the idea of victimisation of sex workers, demonstrating that not all sex workers were deceived or threatened, but that the world of prostitution is composed of people of all genders who are conscious of their choice. Even if it is not the best choice for some of them, it is a concrete labour alternative at a given moment in their lives.

The idea behind this book is to show that sex work is a reality, part of society, of any society, independently of whether or not that society recognises it as a matter of fact. This recognition process depends on the level of the moral and/or political discussion taking place in a given society, regarding not only sex work itself, but also topics such as migration and the labour market.

Pictures of a Reality was developed as an instrument against stigma, discrimination and clichés, as a tool to break taboos regarding sex work, sex workers, and the indoor prostitution setting in Europe. This was achieved because, for a change, sex workers were the ones talking about themselves and their environment, without ‘taboos’ or distortion. They were the ones to show us the reality: their reality.

Reality has, however, multiple faces, as individuals will have different perceptions of any given situation. Therefore, to show a wider dimension of this reality, to contrast these perceptions, the book also presents the opinion of ‘other’ professionals, persons who are directly or indirectly involved with sex workers.

Sex workers’ declarations are there to reduce and deconstruct myths about them, by painting a picture of what they really are. However, through all the differences, one aspect is common to all sex workers in all nine European cities: their demand for rights and respect.”

Full text available here.

Special Issue: The Governance of Commercial Sex: Global Trends of Criminalisation, Punitive Enforcement, Protection and Rights, Criminology and Criminal Justice 14. 

Abel, Gillian M. “A Decade of Decriminalization: Sex Work ‘down Under’ but Not Underground.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 580–92. doi:10.1177/1748895814523024.

Costello, Robert, and Shady Saleh. “Book Review: The Punishment Imperative: The Rise and Fall of Mass Incarceration in America.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 629–31. doi:10.1177/1748895814544425.

Kotiswaran, Prabha. “Beyond the Allures of Criminalization: Rethinking the Regulation of Sex Work in India.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 565–79. doi:10.1177/1748895814542533.

Levy, Jay, and Pye Jakobsson. “Sweden’s Abolitionist Discourse and Law: Effects on the Dynamics of Swedish Sex Work and on the Lives of Sweden’s Sex Workers.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 593–607. doi:10.1177/1748895814528926.

Pitcher, Jane, and Marjan Wijers. “The Impact of Different Regulatory Models on the Labour Conditions, Safety and Welfare of Indoor-Based Sex Workers.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 549–64. doi:10.1177/1748895814531967.

Sanders, Teela, and Rosie Campbell. “Criminalization, Protection and Rights: Global Tensions in the Governance of Commercial Sex.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 535–48. doi:10.1177/1748895814543536.

Scoular, Jane, and Anna Carline. “A Critical Account of a ‘creeping Neo-Abolitionism’: Regulating Prostitution in England and Wales.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 608–26. doi:10.1177/1748895814543534.

Kimberly Page, Ellen Stein, Neth Sansothy, Jennifer Evans, Marie-Claude Couture, Keo Sichan, Melissa Cockroft, Julie Mooney-Somers, Pisith Phlong, John Kaldor, Lisa Maher, and on behalf of the Young Women’s Health Study Collaborative, John Kaldor, Serey Phal Kien, Kimberly Page, Joel M Palefsky, Vonthanak Saphonn, and Mean Chhi Vun. “Sex work and HIV in Cambodia: trajectories of risk and disease in two cohorts of high-risk young women in Phnom Penh, Cambodia” BMJ Open. 2013; 3(9): e003095

Abstract:

Objectives
HIV prevalence among Cambodian female sex workers (FSW) is among the highest in Southeast Asia. We describe HIV prevalence and associated risk exposures in FSW sampled serially in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Young Women’s Health Study (YWHS)), before and after the implementation of a new law designed to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Design
Cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from two prospective cohorts.

Setting
Community-based study in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Participants
Women aged 15–29 years, reporting ≥2 sexual partners in the last month and/or engaged in transactional sex in the last 3 months, were enrolled in the studies in 2007 (N=161; YWHS-1), and 2009 (N=220; YWHS-2) following information sessions where 285 and 345 women attended.

Primary outcomes
HIV prevalence, sexual risk behaviour, amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) and alcohol use, and work-related factors were compared in the two groups, enrolled before and after implementation of the new law.

Results
Participants in the two cohorts were similar in age (median 25 years), but YWHS-2 women reported fewer sex partners, more alcohol use and less ATS use. A higher proportion of YWHS-2 compared with YWHS-1 women worked in entertainment-based venues (68% vs 31%, respectively). HIV prevalence was significantly lower in the more recently sampled women: 9.2% (95% CI 4.5% to 13.8%) vs 23% (95% CI 16.5% to 29.7%).

Conclusions
Sex work context and risk have shifted among young FSW in Phnom Penh, following implementation of anti-prostitution and anti-trafficking laws. While both cohorts were recruited using the same eligibility criteria, more recently sampled women had lower prevalence of sexual risk and HIV infection. Women engaging more directly in transactional sex have become harder to sample and access. Future prevention research and programmes need to consider how new policies and demographic changes in FSW impact HIV transmission.

Full text available here.

Gehi, Pooja. “Gendered (In)security: Migration and Criminalization in the Security State.” Harv. JL & Gender 35 (2012): 357.

Abstract:

Over the past decade, both immigrant rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rights have been key issues in United States political and legal debates. Yet, the two issue areas have rarely publicly intersected within these debates. The “war on terror” has heightened the public debate around immigration, national security, and border control; however, LGBTQ concerns and a discussion of LGBTQ immigrants continue to be rhetorically separate from these immigration-focused conversations. This rhetorical separation is especially problematic for those living at the intersections of different identities, including LGBTQ immigrants of color who live in poverty. As this Article will show, the separation ignores the ways in which individuals who do not fit the public description put forth by “rights-based” organizations are the most negatively impacted by the laws and regulations that are being publicly challenged by these mainstream groups.

Full text available here.

Sanjeev Singh Gaikwad, Amrita Bhende, Gaurav Nidhi, Niranjan Saggurti and Virupax Ranebennur, “How effective is community mobilisation in HIV prevention among highly diverse sex workers in urban settings? The Aastha intervention experience in Mumbai and Thane districts, India” Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 66(suppl 2): ii69-ii77, 2012.

Abstract:

Background This paper examines the association between degree of confidence in collective efficacy and self-efficacy for condom use and empowerment among heterogeneous female sex workers (FSWs) in two metropolitan Indian cities with high HIV prevalence.

Methods The study utilises data from the Behavioural Tracking Survey, a cross-sectional behavioural study with 2106 FSWs recruited from 411 intervention sites in Mumbai and Thane. The key independent measures used determine the degree of confidence in collective efficacy (belief in the power to achieve goals and address problems together) and outcome measures included: self-efficacy for condom use with occasional clients and condom use with regular partners, self-confidence in handling a crisis situation and public speaking ability. Univariate and multivariate statistical methods were used to examine the study objectives.

Results Of the analytical sample of 2106 FSWs, 532 (25.3%) reported high degree of collective efficacy for achieving certain goals and 1534 (72.8%) reported collective efficacy for addressing specific problems. FSWs reporting a higher collective efficacy as compared with those reporting lower collective efficacy were as follows: more likely to negotiate condom use with occasional clients (60.3% vs 19.7%; adjusted OR (AOR) ¼6.3, 95% CI 4.8 to 8.4) as well as regular partners (62.8% vs 20.2%; AOR ¼6.4, 95% CI 4.9 to 8.4); confident in facing troublesome stakeholders (73.5% vs 38.8%; AOR ¼4.3, 95% CI 3.3 to 5.6), confident in supporting fellow FSWs in a crisis (76.1% vs 49.6%; AOR ¼2.9, 95% CI 2.2 to 3.7), received help from other FSWs when a client or partner was violent (73.9% vs 46.3%; AOR ¼3.5, 95% CI 2.7 to 4.5) and had stood up to the police or madams/brokers to help fellow FSWs in the past 1 year (5.8% vs 3.3%; AOR ¼2.7, 95% CI 1.5 to 4.9).

Conclusion The results suggest that the strategy of collectivisation in HIV prevention programme has much broader benefits than merely the promotion of safer sex practices. Future HIV prevention interventions in India and elsewhere may include collectivisation as the core strategy within HIV prevention programmes.

Full text available here.

Abstract

This article is about the lives of Nigerian sex workers after deportation from Europe, as well as the institutions that intervene in their migration trajectories. In Europe, some of these women’s situations fit the legal definitions of trafficking, and they were categorized as “victims of human trafficking”; others were categorized as undocumented migrants—“criminals” guilty of violating immigration laws. Despite the growing political attention devoted to protecting victims of trafficking, I argue that in areas of Nigeria prone to economic insecurity and gender-based violence, the categories of “victim” and “criminal” collapse into, and begin to resemble, one another once on the ground. The need to identify and distinguish groups of migrants from one another illustrates the dilemmas that have arisen in the wake of increasingly restrictive European immigration policies. Furthermore, the return processes create a hierarchical structure in which the violence women experience in the sex industry in Europe is imagined to be worse than the everyday violence they experience at home.

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