National Report Offers First-Ever Look at the Canadian Sex Industry

Sex-workers and sex-buyers aren’t who we thought they were, the first national report on the Canadian sex industry has found, only one of the findings from the five-year study, led by Cecilia Benoit of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC).

Evidence from the six surveyed sites (St. John’s, MontrØal, Kitchener, Fort McMurray, Calgary, and Victoria) suggests that the majority of sex workersmost of whom are Canadian-born, Caucasian, in their 30s or 40s and have some form of education or training beyond high schooldo not feel exploited and say that most buyers are not oppressors.

"Based on our study, many of the people linked to Canada’s sex industry workers and their intimate partners, managers and clients have much in common with other Canadians," Benoit says.

While most studies of the sex industry have focused on the individual characteristics of people in the industry, Benoit and her team took a broader view. They also examined to what extent things such as public attitudes and institutionalized messages, stigma, discrimination, fear, isolation, punitive sex-work laws and the environments in which sexual transactions take place influence sex workers’ quality of life.

Investigators interviewed people involved in all aspects of the sex industry: 218 sex workers, 258 clients, 35 spouses/ intimate partners of sex workers, 55 sex industry managers (38 escort services, 17 massage businesses) and 106 people involved with creating and enforcing laws and regulations or providing social services related to the sex industry.

The research team includes UVic’s Chris Atchison; Lauren Casey, Mikael Jansson, Dan Reist and Rachel Phillips CARBC; as well as Concordia University’s Frances M. Shaver and Bill Reimer; and Bill McCarthy of the University of California at Davis.

To discuss the emergent research findings from the working paper, an international symposium on the sex industry in Canada is being held in Ottawa on September 22 and 23.

The report can be downloaded at here (pdf) from the project website:
September 19, 2014

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Media Contacts:

Cecilia Benoit (Sociology/Centre for Addictions Research) at 250-721-7578 or
Suzanne Ahearne (University Communications and Marketing) at 250-721-6139 or
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