UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Condom use in context : women’s experiences in the massage parlour industry in Vancouver, Canada Handlovsky, Ingrid Emilia; Bungay, Victoria Ann; Kolar, Kat


Investigation into condom use in sex work has aroused interest in health promotion and illness prevention. Yet there remains a dearth of inquiry into condom use practices in the indoor sex industry, particularly in North America. We performed a thematic analysis of one aspect of the indoor sex work by drawing on data from a larger mixed-methods project that investigated women’s health issues in the massage parlour industry in Vancouver, Canada. Using a ‘risk context’ framework, condom use was approached as a socially situated practice constituted by supportive and constraining dynamics. Three analytic categories were identified: (1) the process of condom negotiation, (2) the availability of condoms and accessibility to information on STI and (3) financial vulnerability. Within these categories, several supportive dynamics (industry experience and personal ingenuity) and constraining dynamics (lack of agency support, client preferences, limited language proficiency and the legal system) were explored as interfacing influences on condom use. Initiatives to encourage condom use must recognise the role of context in order to more effectively support the health-promoting efforts of women in sex work.

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