Researchers have demonstrated the challenges associated with sex work research; negotiating the stigma attached to its subject matter, the perceived dangerousness of participants, and the barriers faced in reaching hidden populations. By reflecting upon our separate research experiences and drawing upon a body of reflexive sex work research, this article explores how, as sex work researchers, we experienced stigma not only in our professional roles as researchers, but also in our personal lives. We apply Goffman’s (1968) notion of stigma by association; and consider how stigma often associated with prostitution became transposed onto us. In particular, we compare and contrast our separate experiences of conducting sex work research to demonstrate our similar experiences of stigma by association.
Full article available on 
There has been a recent expansion in research into various markets and aspects of the sex industry. With investigation on the increase, this article takes a step back to consider the trials and tribulations of researching female sex work. First the article reviews the difficulties that can be posed by ethics committees and offers solutions to convince officials of the feasibility of the setting and method. Second, concentrating on the access phase, I explore the methodological nuances of researching the sensitive, sometimes hidden and often illicit world of commercial sex. Third, I analyse how inquiry into commercial sexual behaviour and the sexual fieldsite presents particular issues in terms of managing ethical dilemmas in the field; negotiating the researcher role; and both the pleasures and dangers of researching this aspect of social life where the main topics are sex and money. In the conclusion I draw links between the methods used to investigate the sex industry and the development of theoretical debates. These points will be made with reference to the literature and my own work over the past five years in the UK sex industry, including a 10-month ethnography of the indoor prostitution markets.

Chi Adanna Mgbako, Katherine Glenn Bass, Erin Bundra, and Mehak Jamil. “The Case for Decriminalization of Sex Work in South Africa” Georgetown Journal of International Law 44 (2012): 1423

Activists for sex worker rights in South Africa are leading a sophisticated national campaign to decriminalize sex work. This Article serves as an act of solidarity with these activists’ continued efforts to fight for and realize sex workers’ human rights by examining the negative impact that criminalizing prostitution has on sex workers’ rights and presenting evidence-based arguments to show that South Africa should enact legislation to fully decriminalize sex work. South African sex workers’ real-life experiences with violence, police abuse, and lack of access to health care and the justice system, highlighted through interviews conducted by the authors during fieldwork in South Africa in November 2011, are included in this Article as testimony to the human rights violations caused by the criminalization of sex work.

Part I demonstrates how the legal frameworks of criminalization, partial criminalization, and legalization and regulation of sex work are costly, ineffective, and harmful approaches to sex work. Part II presents evidence from New Zealand, the only country to fully decriminalize sex work, to show the positive impact decriminalization has had on the lives and rights of sex workers. The experience of New Zealand suggests that making sex work legal through decriminalization has a positive impact on violence against sex workers, does not result in an increase in trafficking into forced prostitution or youth in the sex trade, and has no influence on the level of demand for sex work.

Part III advocates for the decriminalization of sex work in South Africa as the only legal regime that will uphold sex workers’ rights. Finally, Part IV demonstrates how decriminalizing sex work will fulfill South Africa’s constitutional and human rights commitments by promoting sex workers’ rights to free choice of work, association, access to health care, security of the person, and human dignity.

Full text available here.

Bradley, Clara, and Natalia Szablewska. “Anti-Trafficking (ILL-)Efforts The Legal Regulation of Women’s Bodies and Relationships in Cambodia.” Social & Legal Studies, November 19, 2015, 0964663915614885. doi:10.1177/0964663915614885.
Global imaginations on human trafficking have been captured by a robust mythology that constructs the consenting Third World sex worker as simply a victim of trafficking for sexual exploitation. This anti-trafficking discourse has influenced Cambodia’s legal reform, which has resulted in an increase of abuse against sex workers and has denied Cambodian women their right to marry foreign men. Despite evidence indicating the diversity of the sex industry and its correlation to different levels of sex workers’ autonomy, decision-makers have failed to revise the anti-trafficking framework to reflect the reality of the divergent lives of women who engage in sex as a livelihood.

Stacey-Leigh Manoek, ‘”Stop Harassing Us! Tackle Real Crime!” Human Rights Violations by Police Against Sex Workers in South Africa.’ 2012 Women’s Legal Centre (with SWEAT and Sisonke)

The human rights abuse of sex workers in South Africa is alarming and demands immediate attention. Seven out of 10 sex workers who approached the WLC to report a violation had experienced some form of abuse by the police. Sex workers experience violence during arrest by police officers who routinely beat them, pepper spray them and sexually assault them.

This report draws on the views and voices of more than 300 sex workers in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Limpopo, all of whom approached the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) for information on their rights or legal assistance between September 2009 and July 2011.

Full text available here.


Over the last two decades sexuality has emerged as a key theme in debates about citizenship, leading to the development of the concept of sexual citizenship. This article reviews this literature and identifies four main areas of critical framing: work that contests the significance of sexuality to citizenship; critiques that focus on the possibilities and limitations of mobilising the language of citizenship in sexual politics; analyses of sexual citizenship in relation to nationalisms and border making; and literature that critically examines western constructions of sexuality and sexual politics underpinning understandings of sexual citizenship. In order to progress the field theoretically, the article seeks to extend critiques of sexual citizenship focusing on two key aspects of its construction: the sexual citizen-subject and spaces of sexual citizenship. It argues for a critical rethink that encompasses a de-centring of a ‘western-centric’ focus in order to advance understandings of how sexual citizenship operates both in the Global North and South.

Full article available here

Elfriede Steffan, Barbara Kavemann, Tzvetina Arsova Netzelmann, Cornelia Helfferich: Final Report from the study of the federal model project “Support for Leaving Prostitution”, September 2015. 

Abridged report available here in English and German.

Original title of the report in German: Unterstützung des Ausstiegs aus der Prostitution – Kurzfassung des Abschlussberichtes der wissenschaftlichen Begleitung zum Bundesmodellprojekt


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