Journal specialises in sex workers’ ideas and research: call for papers

Sex-industry research is fraught with biased assumptions, flawed methodology and lousy ethics. There are exceptions, but they are scarce, including from the academic side. It now seems long ago that activists pushed the idea of PAR – participatory action research – as a way to get people being researched (in the passive sense) involved actively as subjects. PAR isn’t mentioned so often now, but its new incarnation is – community-based research. In both, ideas for research are meant to be generated by subjects themselves, by people outsiders often consider either toconstitute a social problem or to be so disempowered they cannot help themselves and others need to do it for them – a fundamental tenet of the Rescue Industry.

Some people think only the most formal investigation qualifies as research – the scholarly or scientific. Others say the investigation has to be systematic. Is the goal to establish facts or to collect information? In the world of social science, the notion of facts is hard to sustain. A conversation in a café can sometimes be research. On the other hand I don’t believe it’s useful to just call everything research, and there’s a research tag in the cloud to the right precisely because so much stuff calling itself research is bad in any of a number of ways.

This year I am editing a journal called Research for Sex Work, which is published by the NSWP (Network of Sex Work Projects). I have always liked this journal because it is a hybrid: not technically academic at all but using peer review, and the priority is on articles written by sex workers themselves. I have myself published several times in the journal, and they are pieces that have been translated and republished often. Here is the Call for Papers just published; please distribute to your networks.

Research for Sex Work is seeking contributions for its next issue, on HIV and Sex Work. This international journal provides a platform for the exchange of ideas, experiences and research results on the subject of sex work in a framework of health and human rights.

We give priority to submissions from sex workers – individuals and groups. Although it’s not an academic journal, we do send articles out for review, to achieve the highest possible quality and credibility amongst policymakers. Most readers and authors come from sex worker groups, support organisations, HIV prevention projects, local and international NGOs, universities, research institutes. The journal aims for coverage of all geographical regions.

We welcome three types of writing : 1- research results, 2- project or programme descriptions and 3- think pieces. Submissions must be in English, but don’t worry if yours is not perfect – we will edit. Maximum length is 1200 words.

If you have an article idea or a question, write to the editor, Laura Agustín, at R4SW.Editor[at] by 7 July 2012.

Finished articles will be due 1 August 2012, and authors will need to be available by email to answer questions and make corrections over the following month or so.

We also are looking for high-resolution photos for which you own the rights. Write first to describe them to R4SW.Editor[at]

This edition will be bilingual: English/Chinese.

Here you can find a history of the journal and see earlier editions.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

One thought on “Journal specialises in sex workers’ ideas and research: call for papers

  1. Sexworker Marc

    I like the declaration “the priority is on articles written by sex workers themselves” but will hint to its present limitations and give suggestions for the future:

    Typically one has to do a full time job in order to survive or pay bills. That can be either sex work or scientist. Most sex workers in the last pan German sex worker study by RKI are full time workers. Most scientist have no sex work side job I assume, but can have sex work experience like ‘Dr. Belle de Jour’. Only some sex workers happen to be student sex worker i.e. fall into both categories and thus are privileged to contribute to this journal (selection).

    But what is the difference in the business model from sex worker and scientist regarding knowledge creation and delivery (publication). Job of the sex worker is sex service delivery and a lot of knowledge is necessary and accumulated doing so. But the sex worker is not selected and paid for experience (regardless how necessary) but being sexy.

    Other the scientist having sold his brain to deliver facts e.g. on sex workers. He/she typically is paid (minimal?) wages by public institutions like NGOs on short period or project contracts, whereas the sex worker has to sell every once a service may be possible/needed ((migratory) daily/hourly labourer), unless he/she is a lesser-independent subcontractor of an agency/brothel (often framed as being pimped and thus victimized/criminalised due to taboo of division of sexual labour).

    The difference in these types of knowledge or even wisdom relate to the horizon or perspective. The type of knowledge by sex workers is good and needed for sex workers, while the other type of knowledge by scientists is fine for the funding institution or society at large (e.g. prostitution image campaign which of course benefits future sex worker generations). An emancipatory sex work research magazine should not only boost sex workers as contributors but also cover sex worker demanded knowledge with first priority. However that is typically sex biz business knowledge and to deliver this how-to wisdom may be criminalized as promoting prostitution.

    So still the problem exist, how to get sex workers motivated to produce some form of knowledge, that at least to an abstract institution may be of interest? The scientist not only receives money, but non-monetary compensation. Every article delivered adds up to the reputation and typically academic jobs based thereupon traditionally have increasing income curves with age (career). The opposite is the case with sex workers. Every publication carries an outing risk, which requires deliberate stigma management and sex work income is typically retrogressive [Paul Cressey 1932].

    So what we need is tandem sex worker/scientists couples and we need sex workers being invited and receiving (at least symbolic) funding for researching/publication i.e. contributing an article.

    Therefore we do need more than just a call for papers as done here, but we need a social process within the sex work community (discourse): which topics shall be dealt with in the next issue and who can/should work on it and contribute… We need new sex work compatible sex work research structures in order to get our sex worker wisdom into our own publications and knowledge repositories. Our Facebook networking is a good platform to face these challenges.

    (Collaborative sex work research databases are bit. ly/sexworkinternet … sexworker. at … saafe. info … tradeSecretsGuide.blogspot. de … blogs …).


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