Sex Ed

The Most Common Reasons For Becoming a Sex Worker in a Country Where Sex Work is Legal

December 30, 2018 by Justin Lehmiller

There are a lot of stereotypes about female sex workers, and one is that no woman would ever choose this profession voluntarily. Some people see sex work as inherently victimizing, which means that—in their view—no women could truly ever enjoy this job. But is it true? According to research on female sex workers in cultures where sex work is legal, it turns out that many women decide to become sex workers precisely because they enjoy the work.

The infographic below reviews the most common reasons for becoming a sex worker among a group of nearly 200 women in Switzerland, where sex work is legal. What you’ll see may surprise you, including the fact that liking the job was actually the single most common reason reported for becoming a sex worker. That said, most of the women surveyed wished to leave the profession, so it’s not the case that everyone enjoys the job—there’s a lot of individual variability due to factors such as working conditions.

Keep in mind that these results speak more to the motivations of female sex workers in cultures where sex work is out in the open and government regulated. Motivations are likely to be quite different in places where sex work remains underground and is generally more dangerous. That said, these results challenge a popular stereotype about sex work and tell us that there are indeed women for whom sex work is a profession or career that they enjoy.

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Image Source: 123RF/mikewaters

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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