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Australian Women Buying Sex as Therapy Challenge Narratives About the Sex Industry and Female Sexuality

Australian Women Buying Sex as Therapy Challenge Narratives About the Sex Industry and Female Sexuality

Introduction and Objectives: Women are often positioned
as not needing/desiring commercial sex and
prefer talk or day spa therapies for sexual wellbeing.
This paper presents new information on women buying
sex in Australia and draws on three studies:
Women’s accounts of buying sex; Sex worker’s insights
to female-clients; and a Social analysis of how
Australian’s discuss the possibility of women buying
Methods: Twenty-one female-identifying participants
who had bought sex in Australia, responded to social
media advertisements and interviewed. Data were analysed
using a phenomenological interpretative analysis.
Data were triangulated through a thematic analysis of
data from interviews with 17 sex workers about their
female clients, and an examination of contemporary
discourse about women buying sex in Australia via a
textual analysis of online audience responses to media
about female sex tourism.
Results: All 21 participants described a therapeutic
benefit of buying sex, regardless of their initial motivation
to buy sex. Therapy was said to be the main
motivation to buy sex by ten of the women interviewed.
Therapeutic goals encompassed recovery from
vaginismus, intimate partner violence, and childhood
sexual abuse. The major motivator for the remaining
participants was to experience sexual pleasure through
non-committal and non-reciprocal sex. The sex workers
interviewed said there were few differences between
their male and female clients, and the media study
found a lack of audience sensitivity to the possibility of
women buying sex.
Conclusions: Women buying sex are often overlooked
based on passive constructions of female sexuality,
and dismissed, in favour of highly gendered
constructions of the sex industry. Sex workers rejected
gender power theories, maintaining clients’ roles shape
behaviour. Mediated discussions of women buying sex
prompted a divergence from previous constructions of
the sex industry to a more nuanced discourse of consensual
adult exchange, broadening understanding and
supporting balance debate.
Keywords: sex work, female sexuality, gender,
commercial sex, female clients
Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Statement: None

Speakers: Hilary Caldwell