Selling your self? The psychological impact of street sex work and factors affecting support seeking

Health Soc Care Community. 2010 Sep;18(5):492-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2010.00925.x. Epub 2010 Jun 24.


Previous research investigating the risks of female street sex work has tended to focus on the most tangible risks to physical health and safety. This is reflected in the provision of support services for sex workers, where these aspects are prioritised. There is little research focusing solely on the psychological risks of sex work. This qualitative study aimed to explore the perceived psychological impact of street sex work and factors that affected support seeking. Interviews were carried out with a sample of UK female street sex workers (n = 7) who attended a drop-in clinic and health professionals (n = 5) who provided input to the drop-in service. The analytic process, which drew from an interpretative phenomenological approach, revealed four main themes that work together to describe the emotional impact of selling sex. Implications for support services and future research are highlighted.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care / organization & administration*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sex Work / psychology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • Unsafe Sex / psychology
  • Young Adult