Understanding the Diversity of People in Sex Work: Views from Leaders in Sex Worker Organizations




Mellor, Andrea
Benoit, Cecilia

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Social Sciences


Criminal laws in Canada and many other countries are currently premised on the assumption of homogeneity, that is, people in sex work are cis women and girls who are being sexually exploited/sex trafficked. This perspective is also shared by antiprostitution groups and many researchers investigating the “prostitution problem”. Perpetuating this position obscures their demographic multiplicity and variety of lived experiences. We interviewed 10 leaders from seven sex worker organizations (SWOs) across Canada who reported a diversity among their clientele that is rarely captured in the extant literature and absent from the current Canadian criminal code. Our findings reveal the important role that SWOs have to play in facilitating access to health and social services and providing spaces where people in sex work can gather in safe and supportive environments, without the fear of stigma, discrimination, or police harassment. We conclude that SWOs can operate as a structural intervention beyond decriminalization that can improve equitable access to health and social services for sex workers Despite SWOs’ efforts, sex workers’ mobilization is still limited by micro-, meso-, and macrolevel stigmatization that prevents and/or discourages some workers from accessing their programs and services.



sex work, structural interventions, stigma, occupational health, diversity, intersectionality


Mellor, A., & Benoit, C. (2023). Understanding the Diversity of People in Sex Work: Views from Leaders in Sex Worker Organizations. Social Sciences, 12(3), 191. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12030191