The social organisation of sex work : implications for female prostitutes' health and safety

Church, Stephanie Louise (2003) The social organisation of sex work : implications for female prostitutes' health and safety. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
Download (38MB) | Preview
Printed Thesis Information:


Introduction: Existing literature focuses on the risks that prostitutes pose to society rather than the occupational risks they face. Most of this work has been conducted with women who work on the streets, although estimates suggest that indoor prostitution (saunas and private flats) in particular is a growing area of commercial sex. This thesis aims to examine the social and economic organisation of commercial sex work in the UK across the three settings of street, sauna and private flats, paying particular attention to the health and safety implications for the women involved.

Results: Women in the study reported high levels of social disadvantage that influenced their entry into prostitution; almost half were first paid for sex before they were eighteen and a minority were first forced into prostitution. The working conditions and routines of the three workplaces are described, focusing on the key social and structural features of the workplace, women’s autonomy and working rules, along with their potential impact upon general health, work related stress and safety. Few differences were found in the sexual and reproductive health of women working in different settings. However, as a group, prostitutes had far poorer sexual and reproductive health than non-prostitute women. High levels of violence were reported across the study, mainly from clients, but also pimps and other women. This was patterned by workplace, with street workers significantly more likely to experience violence than either sauna or flat workers.

Conclusion: Prostitutes do not represent a threat to the health and safety of their clients; rather, data from this study suggest that the reverse is true. Prostitute health (e.g. sexual and reproductive health, drug use) is poorer than that of non-prostitute women in the UK, and as such, prostitutes represent a group with specialist health and welfare needs. The illegality, stigma and organisation of prostitution further impede women’s health and safety. The findings of this study can be used to tailor health services for prostitutes, as well as inform policy and future research

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing
Supervisor's Name: Hart, Prof. Graham and Macintyre, Prof. Sally
Date of Award: 2003
Depositing User: Ms Rosemary Stenson
Unique ID: glathesis:2003-1179
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2009
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2014 07:36

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year