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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Consent as a contested relationship : research ethics in practice with people engaged in sex work Chant, Christina Marie


Increasingly, ethical issues in health research that focus on people engaged in sex work (PESW) are highlighted as a growing concern. The purpose of my thesis was to analyze research participants’ experiences of data collection and consent processes among PESW. Utilizing qualitative data drawn from the Ethics Project, I conducted a secondary analysis of 15 interviews. Data were analysed using thematic analysis informed by a relational ethics framework. Findings illustrate interrelated ethical concerns situated within the power dynamics and relationships between researchers and participants. Participants have several strategies to navigate and mitigate harms associated with data collection and consent, and had important recommendations concerning what constitutes ethical research. The harms identified by participants were largely preventable and are unacceptable in the context of research. Prevalent ideologies of deviance impacted how research was conducted in data collection, contributing to omissions in relational engagement, and the perpetuation of stigma and discrimination towards PESW. Recommendations for research, education, and ethical practice include: encouraging mental health supports in research, trauma- and violence-informed care education for researchers, and increased reflexivity and community-based research methods to address power dynamics between researchers and participants.

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