Insights: Women Working in the Sex Industry in 2019

4F8CDC67-83F9-4357-A164-AC8318126A33 (1)

continuing our exploration.

Following up on our last blog post recapping real stories from the field as told by women working in the sex industry in 2019 Austin, Brittany and I have continued our research and synthesis in the form of taking the themes that we have been working to create, and building design insights. An insight is a provocative statement based on blending what we already know with what we have heard to create bridges between the raw data and potential design criteria for our particular problem space. We have begun articulating our insights regarding womens experiences while working in the sex industry by diving deeply into the mass amounts of data and really immersing ourselves, and we are still in the process of ‘problem seeking’ as we continue to build themes and narratives while we draw out our insights.



insight 1|| Women fracture their identity and develop personas to deal with the emotional performance of their work; however, the money made as Person A influences the financial decisions of Person B. This duality causes inconsistent behavior and creates friction in their lives.

Sex work is work, and it is difficult work at that. Through our conversations with women, a theme shined across all age groups and personal experiences. Every woman discusses how they put on a different face in order to go to work, sometimes quite literally. Of course, we all put a certain face on to go into different dynamics in our lives, whether it be with family, with work, with school. However, the stakes for these women are so much higher than your typical nine to five.

All women working in the sex industry today rely on developing a deep fracture of their identity in order to, quite literally, survive. When a woman goes to work, she is expected to be a tantalizing performer, unreal and hyper-erotic, to please everyone and to know the right thing to do and say. However there is also a defensive wall that she learns to build around herself. She is always calculating and manipulating situations to make sure she gets what she wants while also staying true to her own safety and boundaries. Or she experiences those boundaries being broken, and she suffers greatly for that in an emotional, physical and spiritual realm. She takes the compounding of these experiences home with her at the end of the night, and the next day they are carried over into her home self. Her vanilla self. Her emotional exhaustion in jumping over that rift in self is jarring, and her decisions will tell that story.

insight 2|| Quick money justifies quick spending. Fast cash coupled with unpredictable incomes creates greater opportunity for financial emergencies which leave women at a greater risk of exploitation. Money also grants women the ability to advocate for themselves in exploitative environments.

Money is power, and that is perhaps more literal for these women working in the sex industry than most others will ever experience. The tangibility of a cash exchange is something pretty unique to this industry. Due to the amount of cash going through their hands on a daily basis, not only do these women have very unique relationships to money, but they also have very interesting ways they think about how the money that they have or don’t have translates into power. When they have it, they are in power. They have more room to make decisions and set hard boundaries within their work. That money comes quickly, and it’s cash in hand immediately, which comes with immediate satisfaction. However, when that quick cash gets quickly spent away, they don’t have as much of a net to catch them in an emergency. Many of these women have been in circumstances where because they are not financially stable, can’t say no, they break their own boundaries, and make less safe decisions. The dire financial straits they find themselves in affects their vulnerability.


 next steps.

In the coming weeks we will be meshing our insights with the rest of the class of 2020 teams in our design cohort in order to work together towards discovering universal human truths surrounding financial inclusivity and behavior surrounding money. As we move forward, we want to push ourselves on the question of why does any of this matter?

We want to find design criteria will help us, and our client, to spur less stress, more joy for our research groups. How will the results of this process help us to serve JUST and the populations JUST serves? JUST is currently supporting communities of independent women who are marginalized in our societal systems, and we are excited to continue working with them to discover ways to expand best expand their impact space.

As usual, we will continue to share our progress and process with you, and if you are interested in discussing our work further, we are available for conversation any time: