Designing out vulnerability, building in respect: violence, safety and sex work policy

Br J Sociol. 2007 Mar;58(1):1-19. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2007.00136.x.


One recent finding about the prostitution market is the differences in the extent and nature of violence experienced between women who work on the street and those who work from indoor sex work venues. This paper brings together extensive qualitative fieldwork from two cities in the UK to unpack the intricacies in relation to violence and safety for indoor workers. Firstly, we document the types of violence women experience in indoor venues noting how the vulnerabilities surrounding work-based hazards are dependent on the environment in which sex is sold. Secondly, we highlight the protection strategies that indoor workers and management develop to maintain safety and order in the establishment. Thirdly, we use these empirical findings to suggest that violence should be a high priority on the policy agenda. Here we contend that the organizational and cultural conditions that seem to offer some protection from violence in indoor settings could be useful for informing the management of street sex work. Finally, drawing on the crime prevention literature, we argue that it is possible to go a considerable way to designing out vulnerability in sex work, but not only through physical and organizational change but building in respect for sex workers rights by developing policies that promote the employment/human rights and citizenship for sex workers. This argument is made in light of the Coordinated Prostitution Strategy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Priorities
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Sex Work*
  • United Kingdom
  • Violence / prevention & control
  • Violence / psychology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*