The office : a portable amenity kiosk for female outdoor sex workers.




Wise, Robert

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This report describes the evolution of a prototype portable amenity kiosk to be used by female outdoor sex workers. Following recommendations by Benoit and Millar (2001 pg. 96), I have worked collaboratively with Prostitutes Empowerment, Education and Resource Society (PEERS) to find solutions to two serious problems affecting the outdoor sex trade: 1. The lack of safety, security and well being for on-street sex workers; 2. The persistent negative perception of sex workers by the public, linked to depression and low self-worth. Through small focus groups with sex workers held at PEERS, interviews with social service providers and deep phenomenological immersion in the community, this research has attempted to elicit a strategy for making life on the street safer and better. Central to this thesis is the idea of a portable kiosk that would facilitate a cooperative, rather than territorial model of soliciting. This kiosk or Office idea was introduced at the outset of the meetings with sex trade workers. The concept was presented as a way to improve safety, self-worth, sense of place and level power relations between sex trade workers and their clients. The focus groups revealed that the participants were unanimously in favour of this cooperative or team based model and were forthcoming with design suggestions. The final design that emerged was a small, well-lit shelter with seating for three, safe storage for valuables, and a small toilet. The kiosk will be a stand-alone base for a self-selected, nonhierarchical group of five women per shift. It will be serviced and resituated in low impact areas every two weeks, freeing any given location from becoming a permanent host. This report explains my rationale for the project, outlines some of the preconditions that can lead to the deplorable experience of working on the street and the often repeated cycle of the “whore stigma,” resulting in sex workers being “sequestered” in the most desolate and dangerous parts of town. It argues that the sculptural design of the kiosk and its concomitant referential associations will help mitigate these conditions. Soliciting is illegal, and the issues of abetting this activity in relation to the police, city officials, local business, and the community at large are discussed. Finally, the obdurate physical presence of the kiosk as material discourse is the culmination of the findings of this research project although it still poses many questions. The stage is now set for field testing by PEERS, public discussion and introduction to the wider community.



prostitution, PEERS, self-esteem, safety