Sexing Up the Subject: Methodological Nuances in Researching the Female Sex Industry

Abstract
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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.
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