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How the social and physical aspects of massage parlours affect the way sex workers experience, interpret and contextualise their labour

Hanks, Samuel 2019. How the social and physical aspects of massage parlours affect the way sex workers experience, interpret and contextualise their labour. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This qualitative interpretivist study is focused on massage parlours in Cardiff, Wales. The study has two primary units of analysis; massage parlours and the individuals who work in them. It draws on semi-structured interview and observational data collected across four research sites with sixteen sex workers and three parlour managers. This study contributes new knowledge as it is the first piece of research to explicitly examine social experiences of sex work in Welsh massage parlours. The research explores the role and function of massage parlours and considers how the social and physical characteristics of massage parlours affect experiences of sex work. The massage parlours accessed during this research each had a degree of public visibility as spaces where sex work took place. The study considers the impactions of the entrenched social stigma surrounding sex work for those who work from massage parlours. The positive and negative aspects of massage parlours are discussed. Particular focus is paid to the dual function that massage parlours play as a place of work and ‘home’ for the majority of sex workers. This is argued to blur the spatial and temporal boundaries between working and non-working lives, and influence sex worker well being in a variety of ways. The study argues that experiences of massage parlours are shaped by three core components of sex work; a desire to earn money, remain anonymous, and develop coping strategies to navigate ‘whore stigma’. These core components are argued to combine with the social and physical aspects of massage parlours to have an encompassing effect on sex workers (Goffman, 1961). This marks the theoretical orientation of the study, which incorporates and reflects on elements of established theoretical theories and perspectives at different points of the analysis. This is done in an attempt to capture how massage parlours are experienced by those who work in them. This study has implications for policy and practice. It argues that current social policy discourses overwhelmingly misconceptualise the dominant harms that sex workers were found to experience. It suggests that there is a need to prioritise the mitigation of the extensive, but more tacit and mundane control of sex workers that was visible throughout the data collected. The study concludes by arguing that there is a need to recognise sex workers as a distinct group of individuals with unique needs, rather than subsuming them within modern slavery, domestic abuse and sexual violence policy frameworks.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: DAWES Trust
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 7 October 2019
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2020 01:28

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