Rethinking ‘Involvement’ in Sex Work:... | ERA
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Rethinking ‘Involvement’ in Sex Work: Examining Sex Workers’ Relationships with Sex Work

  • Author / Creator
    Aylsworth, Laura
  • Sex work discourse operates with multiple assumptions about what it means to be involved in sex work and, subsequently, what it means to no longer be involved. These assumptions combine to produce a one-dimensional categorical framework for thinking about sex work participation – in which sex workers are labeled ‘involved’ or ‘exited’ – that ignores the diverse ways sex workers make sense of and participate in their work.
    This study uses the narratives of twenty-five women with experience in Edmonton’s street-level sex trade to engage in a critical rethinking of the meaning(s) and practice of sex work involvement. I bring participants’ lived experiences into a dialogue with current theorization around four guiding questions: 1) What does involvement mean, 2) What does involvement look like, 3) What does it mean to exit, and 4) How can we best acknowledge the complexity of sex work involvement? Findings reveal that sex work involvement is the product of multiple intersecting open-ended vectors that produce an infinite number of relationships with the sex trade. Vectors speak to elements like frequency and manner of participation, level of income dependency, and subjective interpretations of participation, which are themselves contextual and dynamic, with the result that the significance and practice of involvement varies among sex workers as well as over time.
    Eschewing generalizations in favour of plurality, variability, and contradiction, this dissertation reveals there are unlimited ways to ‘be’ a sex worker and ‘do’ sex work. Accordingly, I advocate for a discursive shift away from categorical approaches that theorize ‘involved’ and ‘exited’ as distinct and stable categories, towards process-based methodologies that make involvement itself the focus of inquiry.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2020
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-0rwh-1850
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.