Another decade of social scientific work on sex work: a review of research 1990-2000

Annu Rev Sex Res. 2001:12:242-89.


The international, psychological and sociological research literature on prostitution from 1990 through 2000 is reviewed. The stage is set by scanning topics and perspectives in earlier writings. Then the research is discussed under the following headings: (a) HIV related research (HIV prevalence studies, factors in condom use, and prevention program evaluation); (b) workers' background and motivational issues (early victimization and connected factors, economic motives and connected factors); (c) work related issues (working routines, risks and stresses, and managing risk, work and identity); (d) research on clients, and (e) issues related to social and legal status. The literature is still much more about sex than it is about work. In addition, although an increasing number of authors have criticized the dominance of a deviance perspective over work perspectives on prostitution, the literature still reveals many features of stigmatization. For instance, the wrongs associated with sex work are all too often attributed to the nature of sex work itself instead of to the stigma attached to it or to specific negative circumstances. Likewise, the association between prostitution and negative features (in particular HIV and early victimization) is overwhelming, despite evidence that, for large groups of sex workers, these issues are of limited relevance. Generally, writers fail to adequately differentiate among types of sex workers. In particular, in relation to issues of health and well-being, differentiation among sex workers on the basis of specific features of their working situation (e.g., contexts, routines, relations, conditions) has hardly been studied and is recommended for the future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Crime Victims
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Female
  • HIV Seropositivity / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Work / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology