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Students, sex work and negotiations of stigma in the UK and Australia

Students, sex work and negotiations of stigma in the UK and Australia

Simpson, Jessica ORCID: 0000-0001-5144-358X and Smith, Cassandra (2021) Students, sex work and negotiations of stigma in the UK and Australia. Sexualities, 24 (3). pp. 474-490. ISSN 1363-4607 (Print), 1461-7382 (Online) (doi:

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How stigma is negotiated by female university students working in the sex industry remains under-researched and is limited to the context of erotic dancing. This article combines data collected in the UK and Australia with a total of 14 student sex workers and expands the scope by including individuals working in legal brothels, as independent escorts, webcammers and erotic dancers. Findings reveal that the use of the internet offered some women protection from discrimination, while at the same time exposing others to ‘new’ and intensified forms of stigma; which required alternative strategies to negate the negative effects. Despite the diverse nature of the sex industry, regardless of the sector, women in both countries were similar in their approach to sex work and their response to stigma. Given their relatively ‘respectable’ social standing, students were able to claim ‘respectability’ not available to all. Some women also shared an increased capacity to live openly as sex workers while simultaneously considering their engagement in the industry to be temporary. Rather than living a double life, respondents aspired to a singular, authentic selfhood. Close relationships were built with co-workers and many women felt a strong sense of rootedness within sex-worker communities, with sex work becoming an important part of their identity.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages ( - MP Oct 26 2021.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sex work, stigma, stigma management, students, university
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > Centre for Applied Sociology Research (CASR)
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2021 11:51

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