PhD Dissertation: Educating Sex Workers


Providing Educational Opportunities for Sex Workers

Annie Sprinkle, Ph.D., Former Prostitute/Porn Star turned Sexologist/Artist

In most industries today, workers and their employers take for granted that they will continue to learn more about their career fields. They expect to hone their skills, practice new approaches, and learn about the latest technologies and research advances. However, it is not readily apparent that sex workers have an awareness of continuing education being available for their types of work.

This dissertation researches the existing educational opportunities for sex workers and provides an overview of who offers what. Various organizations, private websites, workshops, videos, health clinics, therapists, conferences and other sources, offer education of various kinds, and for various reasons.

This dissertation then surveys 150 sex workers’ attitudes toward career-related education, their levels of interest, and exactly what they’re interested in learning. Results are tabulated by job description, level of industry experience, and age of the respondents. The overall response was highly favorable toward education. The most popular course topics (out of 28 choices) were, in order, Legal Issues, Career Enhancement, Financial Advice, Super Sex Technologies, Self Defense, and the History of Sex Work. The classes least of interest were, in order, Advanced Safer Sex Techniques, Building Self Esteem, and How to Be A Better Lover.

Next a focus group of sex workers and sex worker educators was assembled. The survey results were shared with this panel of experts who analyzed and discussed them. The group first noticed that the most popular classes were similar to those that would also be of most interest to self-employed individuals in other industries: career-specific skills, and classes in marketing, legal and financial issues. The panel felt that education was very important for the workers, their clientelle and ultimately society at large, and that professional success relies on the same criteria in any business.

They discussed the challenges of educating sex workers, and offered advice for how to best market ‘a sex worker school’ to sex workers, to many of whom the concept would be wholly unfamiliar. Questions regarding legality consituted a huge barrier to teaching some of the topics. Other issues of importance were attitudes such as lack of self esteem of some sex workers, or the feeling that the job was “temporary” so no education was desired. It was determined that it would be beneficial to build support for sex worker empowerment and self esteem into the course design, but not to make it too obvious when marketing the course. The panel also identified the traits of good sex worker educators.

This research resulted in the design of a three day course specifically created to meet the needs of sex workers as identified. Plans are presently being made to implement this comprehensive course for sex workers. The course is called Sex Worker Education and Training, or “The SWEAT”.

Complete Dissertation (PDF 5.9 MB)

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