Beyond Choice

How does identity impact online sex workers and their labor?

Sex workers are a marginalized population who face stigma in both their personal and professional lives. As past sex work researchers have discovered, it is not only survival sex workers and street workers who experience violence, precarity, and the stress that comes with erotic labor (Sanders, 2004). Ultimately, the goal of my dissertation project is to (1) center sex worker voices and experiences as a method to reduce the societal stigma around participation in the sex industry and to (2) shed a light on omnipresent issues of safety and economic justice within the digital sex industry--as identified by sex workers--that demand more regulation and new policies to address inequalities that are more broadly applicable to a plethora of jobs within the gig economy (Graham et al, 2017).

Using a critical collaborative ethnographic approach and mixed-methods, I will deploy an online survey--modeled after the work of Sanders (2014) in the United Kingdom--that will be used to gather demographic data on online sex workers with the goal of reaching over 200 sex workers. This data will be used to quantify the economic disparity that has been documented in past interview research on race and class within the sex industry (Miller-Young, 2014), providing the statistical information needed to address these inequalities on a broader institutional level. I will also be conducting in depth semi-structured interviews with online sex workers about their relationships with clients, their labor conditions with hosting platforms, the creation of digital spaces on social media as community-building and sites of resistance, and their particular experiences living at the intersection of several marginalized identities including, but not limited to, gender, race, class, sexuality, and ability.

Power in Numbers

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197

Survey Respondants

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