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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Violence, gender, and sex work criminalization : exploring the impact of intersecting structural conditions on men and non-binary sex workers’ experiences with workplace violence and occupational safety Koenig, Brett


Background: Criminalizing any aspect of sex work undermines the occupational health and safety of sex workers and perpetuates conditions that increase their risk of experiencing workplace violence. However, there has been very limited research conducted on violence against men and non-binary sex workers (MNBSWs) and the impacts that Canada’s current end-demand sex work criminalization and other intersecting structural conditions have on MNBSWs’ experiences with workplace violence. Therefore, the objective of this thesis is to examine how end-demand legislation and intersecting structural conditions and modes of oppression, such as online regulation, punitive policing, and gender stereotypes, shape MNBSWs’ experiences with workplace violence in British Columbia. Methods: This research draws on 21 semi-structured interviews with MNBSWs in British Columbia between 2020-2021. Data were thematically analyzed using a hybrid conceptual framework that draws on a structural determinants of health framework and intersectionality. Community partners and people with sex work experience were involved at every stage of the research, from study design to data interpretation. Findings: While the majority of participants felt that sex work is not inherently dangerous, findings showed how MNBSWs’ experiences with violence are shaped by end-demand criminalization and other intersecting structural conditions. For online-based MNBSWs, findings showed that end-demand criminalization, online regulations, and sex work stigma created barriers to accessing online platforms and limited their ability to enact safety strategies online, such as screening clients and negotiating services prior to meeting clients in-person. Concurrently, findings demonstrated that MNBSWs’ ability to report violence to the police is compromised due to intersecting sex work and substance use criminalization and stigmatization, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-poverty stigma, homophobia, transphobia, and gender stereotypes. Conclusions: These findings are some of the first empirical evidence to show how MNBSWs’ experiences with violence are shaped by Canada’s end-demand sex work criminalization and other intersecting and mutually constitutive structural conditions. In addition to decriminalizing sex work, these findings demonstrate the need to center MNBSWs’ experiences in policy and program development that target workplace violence against sex workers, including developing strategies to destigmatize sex work, creating community-based systems for reporting violence, and implementing progressive online policies that prioritize sex worker safety.

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