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Lived Experiences of Australia’s Street-Based Sex Workers: the Impacts of Stigma and Discrimination

Lived Experiences of Australia’s Street-Based Sex Workers: the Impacts of Stigma and Discrimination

Sex workers experience stigma and discrimination and are subjected to violence, are reluctant to access services and are susceptible to mental health issues. In Victoria, Australia street-based sex work is illegal and negatively impacts sex workers by exacerbating stigma and discrimination and can lead to social exclusion, low self-esteem and is a violation of their human rights. Legislation has forced street-based sex workers underground thus exposing them to violence, harassment and all forms of abuse. The aim of the study is to investigate the perceptions, experiences and impacts of stigma and discrimination on female street-based sex workers.

An ethnographic study design was employed using participant observation, unstructured interviews and in-depth interviews with 12 women who were working the streets in St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia. Women were recruited from the St. Kilda Gatehouse, a support drop in centre for street-based sex workers. All women were from Caucasian backgrounds. Ten women worked on the streets to support a heroin addiction or were on methadone at the time of the interviews. Ten of the twelve women had children and one woman was pregnant. 
Street-based sex workers experience stigma and discrimination on a daily basis by the general public and at times are victims of violence and abuse by clients. Workers are subjected to stigma and discrimination from service providers such as mental health services, judicial services and police, as well they experience violence and abuse in their inter-personal relationships.

Legislative reform, such as the introduction of tolerance zones for street sex workers is needed to address violence currently experienced by street-based sex workers. Tolerance zones would result in increased visibility and reduced stigma and discrimination and also promote sex workers rights. Support organisations need to be judgement free in order to improve women’s social inclusiveness, sense of well-being and provide a sense of community.

Speakers: Rachel Lennon
Conference: ASSERT 2012

Australian Society of Sex Educators Researchers and Therapists 2012

SafeLanding: a model for addressing the barriers to teaching sexuality and relationships education in schools.

Sexual and reproductive health (S&RH) is a significant health issue for young people with concerns including unplanned pregnancies, rising rates of STIs, increasing incidence of unwanted sex and the impact of social media. Schools, as successful sites for health promotion in S&RH, is affirmed by international research.  Evidence supports teachers being best placed to impact on the sexual health and wellbeing of young people when a comprehensive, whole-school approach is taken linking curriculum and learning within the school environment to the wider school community. Despite strong government direction and excellent curriculum materials many teachers in Victoria remain reluctant to teach in this area.

Sex (work) education.

Sex work plays a crucial educative capacity. Sex workers share tips and information on safer sex, sex and gender diversity, negotiation, boundaries and consent. We share these skills with other workers, clients, and the wider Australian community on a daily basis. In a range of capacities, sex work – including escorting, stripping, BDSM and pornography – involves interaction, transference of expertise, and sharing our voices. Sex work gives clients access to an important diversity of bodies, abilities, sexual practices, gender identities and intimacies.

Young Trans or Gender Diverse People; The needs of gender variant children and their parents

Gender variant individuals have often lived traumatic lives due to the attitudes and limited understanding of the people in their environment. Gender variant children have been institutionalised, subjected to aversion therapies and pressured to maintain secrecy and conform to society’s gendered expectations while dealing with bullying and harassment at school. Simultaneously their parents face societal bias and assumptions that allow their children to be marginalized. Understanding the needs of gender variant children and their parents is a necessary step towards the provision of suitable training and interventions for the support of gender variant children into adulthood.

Implications of Escalating Erectile Dysfunction in Youthful Men Resulting from Internet Pornography Use

Research indicates that the escalation of erectile dysfunction in youthful men can be attributed to excessive Internet pornography use. Usage through adolescence and early adulthood, when the brain is at its peak of neuroplasticity and Dopamine levels are at their highest, creates an environment of increased vulnerability to addiction. Excessive use rewires the brain and interferes with the circuits involved in natural satiation mechanisms, resulting in numbed pleasure responses. Some researchers claim that the Internet’s unending novelty gives pornography the potential to become more addictive than drugs, food and gambling.

Do we de-sex for the school? Polyparents negotiating their sexual relationships and their children's schooling.

Through the use of both quantitative and qualitative data from Australian and United States research, this paper explores polyamorous parenting in relation to schooling. In particular, this paper will focus on how polyparents negotiate the implications of heteronormative monogamy/coupledom as defined and upheld through the educational systems their children are attending. The research shows that polyparents are extremely reluctant to disclose their family structure to school officials, student welfare workers, teachers and other parents in school communities. There appear to be two major barriers to disclosure: a) the fear of legal/student welfare interventions, and b) social stigmatization and harassment of themselves and their children. 

Breaking the silence around sexual difficulties: Raising up women's voices through qualitative research.

Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) is a qualitative research methodology which is concerned with understanding personal lived experience. According to Reid, Flowers and Larkin (2005), this methodology is particularly well suited to the field of sexual health and sexuality as it moves beyond disease and deficit focused approaches and complements the traditional biomedical discourse. For sexual health practitioners, the applied focus of this research methodology also lends itself to the development of sexual health resources and potential interventions.

'Stepping out into the sunshine'; A model of the impact of quality sexology education on undergraduate students.

This study responds to significant issues related to the problematic nature of perceptions of sexuality in Australian society. It also explores the extent to which the students’ view of sexuality can be influenced through a sexuality education program delivered at tertiary level. An investigation of the literature, comprehensive interviews and feedback from students identified the factors which form the perceptions of sexuality that students have by the time they reach young adulthood and enter the sexology class. The study supports the considerable body of anecdotal evidence that has been gathered over thirty years in the award winning Department of Sexology at Curtin University.