Tag Archives: Empirical Research

Benoit, Cecilia, Michaela Smith, Mikael Jansson, Priscilla Healey, und Doug Magnuson. „“The Prostitution Problem”: Claims, Evidence, and Policy Outcomes“. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 29. November 2018.
Prostitution, payment for the exchange of sexual services, is deemed a major social problem in most countries around the world today, with little to no consensus on how to address it. In this Target Article, we unpack what we discern as the two primary positions that undergird academic thinking about the relationship between inequality and prostitution: (1) prostitution is principally an institution of hierarchal gender relations that legitimizes the sexual exploitation of women by men, and (2) prostitution is a form of exploited labor where multiple forms of social inequality (including class, gender, and race) intersect in neoliberal capitalist societies. Our main aims are to: (a) examine the key claims and empirical evidence available to support or refute each perspective; (b) outline the policy responses associated with each perspective; and (c) evaluate which responses have been the most effective in reducing social exclusion of sex workers in societal institutions and everyday practices. While the overall trend globally has been to accept the first perspective on the “prostitution problem” and enact repressive policies that aim to protect prostituted women, punish male buyers, and marginalize the sex sector, we argue that the strongest empirical evidence is for adoption of the second perspective that aims to develop integrative policies that reduce the intersecting social inequalities sex workers face in their struggle to make a living and be included as equals. We conclude with a call for more robust empirical studies that use strategic comparisons of the sex sector within and across regions and between sex work and other precarious occupations.
Comments to this article have been published in the same journal:

Foley, Ellen E. „“The Prostitution Problem”: Insights from Senegal“. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14. Dezember 2018.

Vanwesenbeeck, Ine. „The Making of “The Trafficking Problem”“. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 11. Dezember 2018.
This chapter describes my experiences of conducting research on commercial sex in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which was conducted as part of a larger British Academy–Leverhulme Trust-funded study that examined the policing and legal regulation of commercial sex in Belfast (Northern Ireland) along with three other cities: Manchester (England), Berlin (Germany) and Prague (Czech Republic). This study provided the first empirical analysis of commercial sex in the jurisdiction and was instrumental in shedding light on prevalence rates for those involved in the industry as well as providing demographic information on the age, nationality and sexual orientation of sex workers along with the sector worked in, whether on-street or off-street (Ellison 2015). While academics and researchers are now well attuned to the varieties and differences in the organisation of commercial sex both within and between jurisdictions, what is less well studied and understood are the ways in which attitudes to commercial sex are deeply embedded in local political cultures (Ellison 2015; Zimmerman 2012). In the chapter, I consider my role as a researcher and highlight some of the difficulties that I experienced conducting what was seen as controversial research in the politically, socially and culturally conservative context of Northern Ireland. In this respect, I situate the discussion within the Northern Ireland Assembly’s decision to legislate for Lord Morrow’s (of the Democratic Unionist Party, henceforth DUP) Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill that included a number of provisions to provide support to victims of human trafficking but controversially also included specific provisions to make it a criminal offence to ‘pay for the sexual services of a person’ (Clause 15) in emulation of the so-called ‘Nordic model’ of criminalisation of demand.

Hannem, S. and Tigchelaar, A. (2016), Doing It in Public: Dilemmas of Images, Voice, and Constructing Publics in Public Sociology on Sex Work. Symbolic Interaction, 39: 634–653. doi:10.1002/symb.260


This study describes the use of traditional public sociology as a method of recruitment for organic public sociology research with sex workers. Drawing on their grounded research experience, the authors discuss the issues of representation and framing of the research that arise when engaging in public research with multiple stakeholder publics. Specifically, professional publics may act as gatekeepers to subaltern groups and publicly engaged research risks reproducing existing power inequities and marginalization. However, traditional public sociology can be a tool to engage with subaltern groups and to construct a public where one did not exist; here we examine the complexities, the possibilities, and pitfalls of constructing publics.


This article reflects on some ethical dilemmas presented by an ethnographic study of prostitution that I conducted in the 1990s. The study drew one research subject into a long and very close relationship with me, and though she was an active and fully consenting participant in the research, she was also objectified within both the field relationship and the textual products it generated. This kind of contradiction has been recognized and discussed as a more general problem for ethnography by feminist and critical ethnographers. In this article it is considered specifically in relation to informed consent as an ethical issue. If an ethnographer secures the free and informed consent of a research subject, does this necessarily make the intimacy of their subsequent relationship ethical? Is it possible for anyone to genuinely consent to being objectified through the research process?
Full article available here 
Some research on male clients of female prostitutes argues that clients are simply seeking unemotional sexual release or looking for wild and varied sexual experiences. Yet other sex workers portray clients as lonely, vulnerable, and desiring of emotional connection with women. Rather than view this as an “either-or” scenario—in which all clients fit one profile—we construct two dichotomous models of masculinity for clients and explore their attitudes toward women and sex. Men in the fragile masculinities category feel uncomfortable around women, unattractive to women, and rejected by women in the sexual marketplace, while consumer masculinities men get excited by approaching a prostitute, seek a variety of partners, and do not want the responsibilities of a relationship. We find that fragile masculinities men may be more dangerous to women than consumer masculinities men.

WHO; UNFPA; UNAIDS; NSWP; World Bank (2013): Implementing Comprehensive HIV/STI Programmes with Sex Workers. 


This tool offers practical advice on implementing HIV and STI programmes for and with sex workers. It is based on the recommendations in the guidance document on Prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections for sex workers in low- and middle-income countries published in 2012 by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects.

Topics covered in the tool include approaches and principles to building programmes that are led by the sex worker community such as community empowerment, addressing violence against sex workers, and community-led services; they include how to implement the recommended condom and lubricant programming, and other crucial health-care interventions for HIV prevention, treatment and care; and they include suggestions on how to manage programmes and build the capacity of sex worker organizations. The tool contains examples of good practice from around the world that may support efforts in planning programmes and services.

The tool is designed for use by public-health officials and managers of HIV and STI programmes; NGOs, including community and civil-society organizations; and health workers. It may also be of interest to international funding agencies, health policy-makers and advocates.

Full report and policy brief available here. 

Barbara Kavemann, Heike Rabe (2007): The Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes – implementation, impact, current developments. Findings of a study on the impact of the German Prostitution Act

Full report availbale here.

The entry into force of the Prostitution Act at the beginning of 2002 was a milestone in the political discussion on improving the legal position and social situation of prostitutes in Germany that had gone on for decades.
This paper sets out the key findings of a comprehensive study on the impact of the German Prostitution Act. The study was commissioned by the BMFSFJ (Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth) and carried out by an independent research institute1 from 2004 to 2006. When the Act came into force in 2002, the German Bundestag instructed the Federal Government to carry out a study after two years to look at the impact of the new regulatory situation. The Federal Government’s report, which was submitted in 2007 and is also available in English, was based on this study.2
The German Federal Government places its policy on prostitution in the context of stepping up efforts to prosecute trafficking in human beings and correspondingly its conclusions prioritise better protection of victims of trafficking in human beings and protection of minors. It also stresses the importance of helping people to get out of prostitution.
In this summary of our study, we shall focus on the question of social security and working conditions for prostitutes. We see not only the combating of trafficking in human beings as a human rights issue, but also the tackling of working conditions that are harmful to health, unacceptable or dangerous. At stake here are the rights of those women and men who earn their living through prostitution based on an autonomous, rational decision and to some extent conditioned by serious personal difficulties such as violent backgrounds, predicaments such as debt, or very limited options caused by social exclusion, unemployment or social cleavages resulting from the EU enlargement. They are confronted with widespread discrimination and have no lobby unless they come into the “victim of trafficking” category. In the course of our study, we interviewed a large number of prostitutes about their life situations and what they expect of the Act. We would like this paper to give them a voice.
Our intent is to make our findings available for international discussion; we have placed them in the context of political developments in Germany and compared them with regulations in other European countries.

Charrlotte Seib, Michael P. Dunne, Jane Fischer, Jackob M. Najman (2012): Predicting the Job Satisfaction of Female Sex Workers in Queensland, Australia, International Journal of Sexual Health, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp. 99-111.


This study used a cross-sectional survey to examine job satisfaction and its correlates among 247 female sex workers working as private service providers, in licensed brothels, and in illegal sectors of the industry (mainly street-based workers). Overall, most sex workers reported positive job satisfaction. Satisfaction was higher in women working legally and was comparable with women from the general population. Multivariate analyses revealed that job satisfaction was significantly linked to women’s reasons for initially entering the industry. Sex workers’ age, education, marital status, length of time in the industry, and current working conditions were apparently less important for satisfaction.