Introduction Female sex workers are a diverse group of women who have previously been studied extensively in relation to prior rates of abuse, drug and alcohol use, mental and physical health and condom use. Very limited research has been done regarding sex workers’ personal romantic relationships outside of work and the impact the nature of their work has on their relationships. The aim of this study was to explore the impact sex work has on personal romantic relationships and the experiences women have balancing their work and personal lives.
Methods Fifty-five Melbourne based indoor sex workers completed a self-report questionnaire about their work, personal relationships, condom use and rates of physical and sexual abuse. Following analysis of the questionnaire findings, a further six sex workers were independently interviewed face to face to ‘member check’ the findings and determine if the broader findings were representative of their experience.
Results For the majority of women, sex work was found to negatively impact their personal romantic relationships. The main ways sex work negatively impacted on their personal relationships included problems stemming from lying, trust, guilt and jealousy as well as stigma in the wider community. It was common for women to use various means to mentally separate their work and home lives as a coping mechanism. A small number of women reported sex work had a positive impact on their relationships, which they mainly attributed to their partners positive attitude toward their work.
Conclusion The findings of this study suggest that further larger scale research is required to explore the impact of sex work on romantic relationships, the coping mechanisms women use to manage the tensions between sex work and their romantic relationships, and the ways in which negative impacts could be minimised for women in this diverse group.
Disclosure of interest statement No conflict of interest.
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