Turcotte M, Lanctôt N. (2021). Managing the toll of sex work with bounded agency: Perspectives of ex-sex workers. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality,
The present study builds upon qualitative narratives of ex-sex workers to explore if these women felt they had maintained a positive sense of self during involvement in sex work and, if so, how. Specific objectives were to identify strategies they used to protect their self-concept and better understand the challenges they faced in their efforts to keep sex work within their comfort zone. Fourteen participants were recruited in six different cities from the province of Quebec (Canada) and interviewed twice in 2016. Findings suggest that women were very aware of the effects sex work could have on their self-concept because of the stigma surrounding it, but also because of ambivalent experiences with clients and pimps. As a result, they used various strategies to protect their sense of self, the main one being the making and following of rules that govern sex work activities. Yet, our findings show that the protective quality of these self-concept protection strategies is limited, as women observed that they compromised with personal boundaries at various occasions during their pathways. They made strong associations between these compromises and a progressive fragilization of their sense of self.