A qualitative exploration of the experiences of women involved in sex work

Elsdon, Ruth and Murray, Craig (2017) A qualitative exploration of the experiences of women involved in sex work. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis explores lived experiences of women involved in sex work and is comprised of three parts: a literature review, research paper, and critical appraisal. The literature review is a meta-synthesis of the ways women involved in sex work cope with the associated stigma. It synthesised findings from 14 existing qualitative studies, identified through systematic searches of six online databases. Using a meta-ethnographic approach, three themes were identified: 1) denial: ‘I do not do sex work’; 2) distancing: ‘I do sex work but it’s not me’, and 3) defending: ‘I do sex work but it’s not that bad’. Findings identify particular strategies used within the sex work context, emphasising the importance of power and resilience in stigma coping. The research paper explores women’s experiences of bonding with their children in the context of sex work. Six women were interviewed and interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to identify four themes accounting for their bonding experiences: 1) the complex process of bonding; 2) ‘I never felt like my baby was my baby’: the impact of powerlessness on bonding; 3) ‘give them the help that they need’: the powerful impact of receiving help, and 4) new perspectives of the body and sex work in the light of motherhood. Findings emphasise the complex nature of bonding within this context, particularly highlighting the importance of empowerment and care. Implications for clinical psychology are discussed in relation to both the literature review and the research paper. Finally, the critical appraisal elaborates on some of the ethical and practical issues arising throughout the research, leading to a wider consideration of conducting research within the sex industry, particularly of a sensitive nature.

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Thesis (PhD)
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24 Nov 2017 11:32
Last Modified:
02 Jul 2024 00:56