Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Survey by Dr Teela Sanders reveals previous professions of sex workers

04 March 2015 |

A survey carried out by Dr Teela Sanders says that more than 70% of UK sex workers have previously worked in healthcare, education or charities, while more than a third hold university degrees.

The survey also found that the majority of the respondents feel that their work is flexible, and while 56% found it rewarding, there was also a large proportion that had experienced stigma and lived in fear of being recognised.    

The survey aimed to reveal the pressures that lead people into the industry and further understand issues of safety for its workers.  The policing of sex work was also assessed, with respondents reporting both positive and negative experiences. Dr Sanders commented:

 “We recommend that sex workers be allowed to work legally together. This is the main way they believe their safety will be enhanced. Societal attitudes need to change in order to minimise the stigma underpinning sex work and consequently reduce the harm that prejudice has on sex workers.

“A policy with decriminalisation as its focus ought to be recommended to improve relationships with police by removing threats of enforcement. Police resources should be channelled into dealing with exploitative situations in sex work.”

The survey is one of the largest ever undertaken in the industry, asking 240 sex workers, and was undertaken in partnership with National Ugly Mugs, a UK based scheme to alert sex workers to potentially violent clients.

The research, launched at the Policy, Policing and Protection Conference on 2 March 2015 has been widely covered by the media, including articles in The Guardian, The Metro, The Yorkshire Post and other regional newspapers. 

Find out more about the survey on the YASWC website. 

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