Prostitution Research in Context : Methodology, Representation and Power book cover
1st Edition

Prostitution Research in Context
Methodology, Representation and Power

ISBN 9781138909489
Published February 28, 2017 by Routledge
188 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The starting point for this book is the question of how we research sex for sale and the implications of the choices we make in terms of epistemology and ethics. Which dilemmas and ethical aspects need to be taken into account when producing qualitative data within a highly politicised and moral-infected realm? These two questions are exactly what Spanger and Skilbrei aim to unpack in this unusual interdisciplinary methodology book, Prostitution Research in Context.

The book offers contributions from a number of scholars who, based on their reflections on their own research practice and the existing knowledge field, discuss ongoing methodological issues and challenges representative of international research on sex for sale. Some chapters deal explicitly with methodological dilemmas in research; others thematise the encounter between prostitution research and general texts on epistemology. Other chapters again actively engage with the ethical dilemmas that research on the topic of sex for sale can entail. The authors represent different disciplines, but share an interest in engaging in reflexive research practices informed by feminism and feminist epistemologies.

An authoritative contribution to the field, this innovative volume will appeal to international scholars and students from across the social sciences and humanities in areas such as sociology, anthropology, criminology, media studies, feminist studies, human geography and history.

Table of Contents


  1. Exploring sex for sale: Methodological concerns
  2. Marlene Spanger and May-Len Skilbrei


    Theme 1 Manoeuvring in a politicised research field

  3. History and the politics of prostitution – Prostitution and the politics of history
  4. Judith R. Walkowitz

  5. Speaking the truth about prostitution
  6. May-Len Skilbrei

  7. Troubling unknowns and certainties in prostitution policy claims-making
  8. Isabel Crowhurst


    Theme 2 Researching for, about and with sex workers

  9. Epistemologically privileging the sex worker: Uncovering the rehearsed and presumed in sex work studies
  10. Lorraine Nencel

  11. Collaborative research with sex workers
  12. Carol Harrington

  13. The voice of images: Photovoice, sex workers and affective engagement
  14. Sealing Cheng


    Theme 3 Dangerous positions? Establishing the research field of sex for sale

  15. What do emotions do? Circulations of annoyance, hostility and shame in fieldwork
  16. Marlene Spanger

  17. Contamination or engagement? Doing class in prostitution research

Jeanett Bjønness

10. Seducing the seducer: Negotiating desire, discomfort and power in fieldwork

Christian Groes

Notes on contributors


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Marlene Spanger is Associate Professor in the Department of Culture and Global Studies at Aalborg University, Denmark

May-Len Skilbrei is Professor in the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law at the University of Oslo, Norway


Spanger & Skilbrei reach beyond disciplinary silos in posing novel epistemological questions that push researchers, practitioners, and services providers to reconsider status quo approaches to, and understandings of, transactional sex.  By explicitly and fearlessly connecting political and theoretical issues, this edited collection offers a novel empirical contribution to an all-too-often polarized field of research.

Susan C. Dewey, Associate Professor, Gender & Women's Studies, University of Wyoming, USA.

For the first time, we have an interdisciplinary collection of work dedicated exclusively to sex work/prostitution research methodologies. In this inspiring, ground-breaking collection written by a number of key international scholars in the field, editors Spanger and Skilbrei urge us to think critically about the politics, power relations, and positionality in research processes and knowledge production about the sale of sex, and about how we can engage in informed and reflexive (feminist) research practices about the subject. A must read for anyone considering embarking upon sex work research.

Kamala Kempadoo, Professor, Department of Social Science, York University, Canada. Co-editor of Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance and Redefinition, author of Sexing the Caribbean: Gender, Race and Sexual Labour.

The study of prostitution appears one of the most ethiclly challenging and contentious areas of research in the social sciences. Avoiding stereotyped representations of this complex and diverse area of study, this edited collection provides a balanced and timely assessment of the way that those researching prostitution are obliged to situate their studies in a wider political and social context. A must read for all those who are researching prostitution, and an important contribution to debates in feminist epistemology and methodology'

Phil Hubbard, Professor of Urban Studies & Head of School, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research King’s College London.