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Female sex workers as health educators with men who buy sex: Utilising narratives of rationalisations


  • Sanders, Teela


This paper reports on findings from an ethnographic study of female sex workers who work in the indoor sex markets in a British city. An unexpected finding was the collective narratives that sex workers construct to rationalise their involvement in the sex industry. Fifty-five respondents who took part in in-depth interviews maintained that prostitution is a useful occupation and function in society. Narratives included providing emotional support to male clients; a service for men who are socially or physically disabled; preventing men having adulterous affairs; and health education, disease prevention and as therapists for sexual dysfunction. This paper evaluates how the latter narrative of sexual health promotion is an example of how sex workers are ideally placed to work as health educators with men who buy sex. Arguing against gender specific sexual health policies, men who buy sex are described as a 'high risk' group who are also a hidden population. Limitations posed by ideological, ethical and practical concerns relating to the specific conditions of the sex industry suggest that this proposal could be partially successful. In conclusion, I suggest the sexual health of the nation and the place of sex workers in society must be considered with regard to recent policy debates on the management of prostitution and the cultural construction of the sex worker.

Suggested Citation

  • Sanders, Teela, 2006. "Female sex workers as health educators with men who buy sex: Utilising narratives of rationalisations," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(10), pages 2434-2444, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:62:y:2006:i:10:p:2434-2444

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Campbell, Carole A., 1991. "Prostitution, AIDS, and preventive health behavior," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 32(12), pages 1367-1378, January.
    2. Campbell, Catherine, 2000. "Selling sex in the time of AIDS: the psycho-social context of condom use by sex workers on a Southern African mine," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 479-494, February.
    3. Wojcicki, Janet Maia & Malala, Josephine, 2001. "Condom use, power and HIV/AIDS risk: sex-workers bargain for survival in Hillbrow/Joubert Park/Berea, Johannesburg," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 99-121, July.
    4. Keith Soothill & Teela Sanders, 2005. "The Geographical Mobility, Preferences and Pleasures of Prolific Punters: a Demonstration Study of the Activities of Prostitutes' Clients," Sociological Research Online, Sociological Research Online, vol. 10(1).
    5. Campbell, Carole A., 1995. "Male gender roles and sexuality: Implications for women's AIDS risk and prevention," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 197-210, July.
    6. Lawless, Sonia & Kippax, Susan & Crawford, June, 1996. "Dirty, diseased and undeserving: The positioning of HIV positive women," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 43(9), pages 1371-1377, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Adriaenssens, Stef, 2010. "'Its all supply and demand': Market fatalism and norm construction by prostitution clients in the Netherlands and Belgium," Working Papers 2010/18, Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel, Faculteit Economie en Management.


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