Independent Female Escort’s Strategies for Coping with Sex Work Related Stigma

Abstract

Despite the reframing of ‘prostitution’ as ‘sex work’ in research and advocacy literature, the stigma associated with this activity persists. This study examines how independent female sex workers advertising online as “escorts” perceive and manage the stigma associated with their work, and how these coping strategies impact their personal relationships. Thirty escorts participated in semi-structured qualitative interviews; Goffman’s (1963) theory of stigma and information management strategies was used as a theoretical framework to guide the analysis of women’s experiences. Women who engaged in selective disclosure regarding sex work reported greater access to social support, while women who concealed their work from most people often reported feeling lonely and socially isolated. Escorts’ stigma coping strategies may have significant impact on their social relationships and access to social support.

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Acknowledgments

This project was funded through a Dissertation Research Grant by CHEST and Hunter College of the City University of New York. Additional funding for Dr. Koken was provided by the Behavioral Sciences Training in Drug Abuse Research Program sponsored by Public Health Solutions of New York City, and the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. (NDRI), with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (T32 DA07233). Points of view, opinions, and conclusions in this paper do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Government, Public Health Solutions or National Development and Research Institutes. The author would like to thank Dr. Jeffrey Parsons and the anonymous reviewers who provided helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript. Also appreciated are the contributions of Kevicha Echols and Blair Morris for their assistance in the early stages of data coding. Finally, great thanks are due to the women who chose to participate in this study and share their perspectives.

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Correspondence to Juline A. Koken.

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Koken, J.A. Independent Female Escort’s Strategies for Coping with Sex Work Related Stigma. Sexuality & Culture 16, 209–229 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-011-9120-3

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Keywords

  • Stigma
  • Female escorts
  • Sex workers
  • Coping