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research in action

Follow the progress of this 5-year research project as we collect data in cities across Canada.

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Learning more about people and their experiences in the Canadian sex industry is the goal of this research project funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The sex industry, like other industries, is often more significant, complex and misunderstood than people realize. It involves a range of services and different types of relationships between people from various ethnic, economic and educational backgrounds. Yet unlike most other types of work, sex work carries the enormous burden of social stigma, safety concerns and legal issues, making the health and well-being of workers—and their families, managers and clients—difficult to achieve and maintain.

The project involves a variety of Canadian community organizations and an international team of researchers headed by Cecilia Benoit, a sociologist located at the University of Victoria. Through research conducted in cities across the country, the team aims to understand better what our society can do to help improve the environments and lives of people associated with Canada’s sex industry.

Peer-Reviewed Articles and Reports 

Atchison, C., & P. Burnett, P. (2016) The Social Dynamics of Safe Sex Practices among Canadian Sex Industry Clients. Sociology of Health and Illness. 38(6):1–18.

Atchison, C., Benoit, C., Burnett, P., Jansson, M., Kennedy, M., Ouellet, N., & Vukmirovich, D. (2015) The Influence of Time to Negotiate on Control in Sex Worker-Client Interactions. Research for Sex Work. Vol. 14.

Benoit, C., McCarthy, B., & Jansson, M. (2015). Occupational Stigma and Mental Health: Discrimination and Depression among Front-Line Service Workers. Canadian Public Policy, 41(Supplement 2), S61-S69.

Benoit, C., McCarthy, B. & Jansson, M.  (2015). Stigma, sex work, and substance use: A comparative analysis. Sociology of Health & Illness 37 (3): 437-51. (article)

McCarthy, B., Benoit, C. & Jansson, M. (2014), Sex work: A comparative study. Archives of Sexual Behavior 43: 1379-90. (article)

Phillips, R. & Benoit, C. Exploring courtesy stigma among frontline care providers serving sex workers. Sociology Insights on Inequities in Health and Health Care. Special issue of Healthcare Policy 9, 139-151. (article)

Roth, E., Ngugli, E., Benoit, C., Hallgrimsdottir, H., & Jansson, M.  A  reasoned action model of male client involvement in commercial sex work in Kibera, a large informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. Human Organization.73, 174-182. (article)

Benoit, C., Ngugi, E., Roth, E., Jansson, M., Hallgrimsdottir, Sharpe, K. (2014). Benefits and constraints of intimate partnerships for HIV positive sex workers in Kibera, Kenya. International Journal for Equity in Health. 12:76 doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-76. (article)

 McCarthy, B., Benoit, C., & Jansson, M. (2012) Regulating sex work: Heterogeneity in legal strategies for controlling prostitution. Annual Review of Law and Social Science 8, 255–71. (article)

Ngugi, E., Benoit, C., Hallgrimsdottir, H., Jansson, M., & Roth, E. (2012). Family kinship patterns and sex work involvement among women from the informal urban settlement of Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya. Human Ecology. 40, 397–403. (artilce)

Ngugi, E., Benoit, C., Hallgrimsdottir, H., Jansson, M. & Roth, E. (2012). Partners and clients of female sex workers in an informal urban settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. Culture, Health & Sexuality 14, 17-30. (article)

 Phillips, R., Benoit, C., Vallance, K., & Hallgrimsdottir, H. Courtesy stigma: A hidden health concern among frontline service providers to sex workers. Sociology of Health & Illness. 34, 681–696. (article)

Jansson, M., Benoit, C., Casey, L., Phillips, R. & Burns, D. In for the long haul: Knowledge translation between academic and non-profit organizations. Qualitative Health Research,20, 131–143. (article)

Hallgrimsdottir, H., Phillips, R., Benoit, C., & Walby, K. Sporting girls, streetwalkers, and inmates of houses of ill-repute: Media narratives and the historical mutability of prostitution stigmas. Sociological Perspectives, 51(1), 119-138. (article)

Shumka, L. & Benoit, C. Social suffering and gaps in alternative health care for vulnerable women workers. Sociology of Health Care, 25, 255-278. (article)

Hallgrimsdottir, H., Phillips, R. & Benoit, C. (2006). Fallen women and rescued girls: Social stigma and media narratives of the sex industry in Victoria, BC, from 1980 to 2005. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology,Special Issue, 43(3), 265-280. (article)

Benoit, C, Jansson, M., Millar, A. & and Phillips, R. (2005). Community-academic research on hard-to-reach populations: Benefits and challenges. Qualitative Health Research, 15(2), 263-282. (article)

Phillips, R. & Benoit, C. (2005). Social determinants of health care access among sex industry workers in Canada. Sociology of Health Care, 23, 79-104. (article)

Benoit, C. & Millar, A. (2001). Dispelling myths and understanding realities: Working conditions, health status, and exiting experiences of sex workers. Sponsored by PEERS. Funded by BC Health Research Foundation, Capital Health District, and BC Centre of Excellence on Women's Health. (full report) (technical report/questionnaire)


Recent team grant releases:

Science Fact or Science Fiction: Are All Sex Workers Victimized?

Throughout much of the world, sex work is often regarded as a dangerous and exploitive profession. While sex workers are more likely to experience violence and poor health than the general population, is it accurate to depict all sex workers as victims? Are violence and poor health inherent to the nature of such work, or are they the products of punitive laws and inadequate social conditions? What do we really know about the experiences of sex workers in Canada? Read more.... English French

Team Grant Working Paper

We are pleased to present some preliminary findings from our Team Grant in our working paper. We will be discussing and ciritically assessing our findings at our symposium in Ottawa on September 22, 2014 entitled, Building on the Evidence: An International Symposiumon the Sex Industry in Canada. In the document you will find a link to provide feedback on the report. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sex Industry Legislation Perpetuates Stereotypes: Study

University of Victoria researchers have highlighted preliminary findings from the largest and most comprehensive study of the sex industry undertaken in Canada in a brief (English version/French version) to the Justice and Human Rights Committee, which is poised to begin examination of Bill C-36—the proposed legislation governing the sex industry—in Ottawa on July 7.


Please forward your questions and feedback on the Team Grant working paper to the Understanding Sex Work research team.