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Can Rev Sociol. 2015 Nov;52(4):429-49. doi: 10.1111/cars.12085.

Squaring Up: Experiences of Transition from Off-Street Sex Work to Square Work and Duality--Concurrent Involvement in Both--in Vancouver, BC.

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Durham University.


Many studies of exit from sex work are inspired by role theory, where people experience a lack of attachment to a role; are faced with individual, interactional, and structural challenges; contemplate transition and exit a role; and then struggle to establish postrole identities and new lives. This framework has been used to explicate the factors and experiences of those who leave or attempt to leave the sex industry; however, it is limited because studies present sex work as a harmful and dangerous profession that people are trapped in, escaping, or have survived. In this paper, I discuss Vancouver's history of violence against sex workers and I review research on sex work exiting and bring forward recommendations for the design of exit program based on the experiences of 22 active and former off-street sex workers from Vancouver, British Columbia. I describe study participants who include Sex-Work-No-More participants who would not return to the industry, Sex-Work-Maybe participants who consider reinvolvement, and Dual-Life participants who are employed in sex work and conventional work simultaneously. These participants uniquely challenge narrow, binary understandings of involvement and transition because they discuss their use of deception to obtain resources needed to make change; the support that clients have provided; their strategic engagement in sex work as a means to exit; their considerations of reentry; and for some, their dual employment. In light of new legislation that criminalizes activities related to sex work-the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act-and the Federal government announcement of $20 million dollars for the creation of exit services nationwide, hearing from sex workers is essential to advancing agendas in this area.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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