For all those who wish to do research on sex work

I just came across this post at eminism.org and felt it appropriate to share here.

I’m sure that you’d understand, but activists do not exist to help you do your homework. Every moment activists spend talking to you (including the time it takes to read your email, think how to respond, and write a response) is a moment that they could be doing something else, most likely something more worthwhile. If you wish to grab attention of activists to your project and have them help you do your homework, you need to make it worthwhile to them: what do activists gain from helping you, or how would it help the work they are doing?

11 Responses

  1. Very well said!

  2. There’s the time factor, but then I always think about the education factor. It’s one thing if they’re being sloppy and except to get handed easily-found answers. And then I think that most of the answers out there are of the Melissa Farley type. That disturbs me. So spend the time to try and offer differing perspectives or just let it go?

    Just musing out loud.

    XX

  3. I think it depends on what type of research we’re talking about here. Research can be a form of advocacy and can be an important tool we can use to advance sex workers’ rights. One way researchers can compensate sex workers for participating in the research is by donating time and/or money to sex worker advocacy organizations and activities.

  4. For me, it’s a lot like what Melissa G said in an earlier post. I’m not going to debate with you anymore about whether sex work is degrading or empowering, go read a book. The debate is old. If the students/researchers don’t want to have a sophisticated conversation and are only interested in seeking out information that matches their preconceived opinions about sex and women, then they are wasting my time.

    I so rarely encounter students, journalists or organizations who are doing research to expand their knowledge or advance any cause. It’s about having their research accepted/bought/promoted by their editors, their advisers, the public, etc.

    Of course we have lots of fantastic advocates/researchers who are doing great work and they rarely need to be schooled on this (like sexworkeradvocate, she rocks!) and like Dr. Avaren Ipsen among many others.

    What I think is important about this post is that it will help sw’s articulate boundaries with researchers/journalists who often think they’re doing us a favor by asking us a whole lot of insulting questions. I did not intend in anyway to imply that ALL researchers/journalists are time-wasters.

    I think contributing financially is important and should absolutely be done. For research that is being done on sex workers but not about sex work per se (for example, microbicides) I think those doing the research should be actively pro-sw’s rights if they expect sw participation. Otherwise, they’re benefiting from our disenfranchisement. And American sw’s need to be able to stand in solidarity with the sw’s in other countries, who are most often targets for research of this sort, to be able to negotiate the terms and conditions of voluntary research.

    Also, peer-based community research is a growing trend that seems to be producing the more accurate social information. Different Avenues in DC currently has a project like this examining ‘prostitution-free’ zones. http://www.differentavenues.org/comm_research.html

  5. I think it depends. On the one hand, I understand what Em is talking about and how annoying it can be to be expected to always be ready to serve as someone’s science project. On the other hand, I think it’s unfair to assume all researchers are assholes. The post did have a snooty tone to it that put me off.

  6. I’ve been around the industry for a number of years and I have seen various articles and papers written.

    The one thing I have noticed is that these are the same as almost all articles and papers:

    The end result will always carry a portion of bias toward the mental direction of the researcher and/or writer.

    Do I think that some articles and papers can be useful and productive? Absolutely!

    Do I think that some people attempting to do research are insulting and degrading? Absolutely!

    I think that any and all in and around the industry should be careful about whom they provide research assistance to, or grant interviews to.

    I’ve read dozens and they have covered so many different aspects that it might make ones head spin a bit… I do think the article that irritated my sensibilities most over the years was in fact nothing more than a fluff piece of a sort. It was not designed to portray Sex Workers in a harsh light. It was not designed to promote advocacy. It was actually designed to glamourize Sex Workers.

    All of the women interviewed were out spoken, well known, and either currently active or published writers who were openly outed in their community. An interesting change and a positive twist, but in truth… The women who were known for being active in furthering acceptance only ended up coming across a bit poorly.

    It was written for a British fashion magazine… And it was what spurred on Sharon Osborne’s show to look into doing an episode on “High end call girls” who are in the industry to advance their material needs.

    Granted… There can be a number of financial perks and there are a number of women who love their designer wear… But I don’t know that I agree with how it painted the women. It made them seem cold, calculating, and materialistic when reality is that most of the women I have had the pleasure of meeting are educated, warm, and down to earth people.

    I am of the firm belief that there needs to be a decriminalization for the industry, and laws put in place to protect the human rights of sex workers… But I don’t know that this article was appropriately placed.

    I would love to see an intelligent article in a major magazine that was representative of the intelligent, educated women that consciously take part in, and enjoy being part of the industry.

    I also think that if you are to assist someone in their research then you should certainly insist on reading a copy of the article or paper prior to publication. Discretion is not always a researchers first priority and things can be easily misconstrued.

    But as usual… I digress a bit to be side tracked by my own bias and view points. *wink*

    S

  7. I want to see sex workers doing the research, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several workers, be it formerly or presently, who have started down the path of academic research.

    The only problem is the stigma associated with sex work. In the current climate, it is very difficult to proclaim oneself as both a sex worker and an academic researcher.

  8. Yes, it is interesting that one supposedly cannot be a serious researcher/academic and a sex worker, or a feminist and sex worker, or even a well-adjusted human and sex worker. Of course this is a statement on society and not the sex worker, but it’s pathetic all the same.

    XX

  9. So here is my problem. I am an amateur radio programmer on a feminist community radio show. This week we have an interview with a group of current and ex pros talking about a magazine for sex workers.
    I would consider myself an advocate for sex worker rights. I have tremendous respect for sex work as a profession. However, I am finding doing this show extremely hard to prepare questions for because I am afraid of being anti sex work without even knowing it. Because I am not directly part of the sex work culture, it is difficult to recognize what is pro sex work or anti sex work sometimes, because of the extreme complexity of the issue.
    I have found some pro’s willing to talk, while others who i am sure have much experience and many opinions resist talking because of a fear that I will create an inaccurate portrayal of the profession. However, the frustration is that generally I am left to read articles and books by researcher’s and academics who are not sex workers, leading to less representative perceptions of the culture…which leaves me feeling more ignorant than i started out as!
    anyways, i am just working on this right now, and feeling a little frustrated. Very glad for this website and the interesting commentary it generates.

  10. Amateur-

    That you are evening asking yourself these questions is positive! I appreciate your comments here.

    I’m not sure exactly what your show is about, but I could make some suggestions based on what you’ve said here.

    The question that you are forming here could actually lead to a fantastic conversation with a sw-related publication. Is it a publication with content created exclusively bu sex workers? If so, they are providing a platform and will be able to comment thoroughly about issues of misrepresentation, silencing, exclusion of sex worker voices, etc. Plus, they can discuss the broad spectrum of diversity among sex worker voices, why it’s impossible to categorize sex workers, etc. Exactly all of the things you’re concerned about, ask questions about it without making assumptions, I think your interviewees will appreciate that.

    If it is a publication about sex work rather than by sex workers, I’d ask questions about their target, what they’re hoping to convey, how much self-representation is there by sex workers, etc? Ask the same questions froma different angle.

    I hope this can be helpful. Good luck with your show! If it’s available online, you should post it here.

  11. well, i live in israel and research is very poor here. most researches focus on things like prostituts sexual abuse on childhood, and mainly they quote american and europian researches. so when i came across a young researcher who her subject was different i gladly cooporate with her.
    I really think its even important to help people from the academic world who believe sex workers are working people, and who try to understand the specific problems or characteristics of our work.
    the more people write and read the subject, the more it has life of its own and doesnt need opinions from “above”: the law, the wrong old feminists, the social services atc.
    hope i made myself clear.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: