In the USA, the majority of research on sex work has examined the experiences of women recruited from social locations commonly referred to as the ‘sex industry’, such as street strolls or escort services. This paper presents data from female syringe exchange participants who had sold sex in the last 30 days. The women interviewed for this study report a much broader array of commercial transactions than found in previous US studies, including selling sex to women, paying men for sex, and considerable role fluidity between buying and selling. In addition, approximately one-third of the women report only selling sex 1 day per week or less, and appear to be more socio-economically stable than women who sell sex more often. We argue that this data suggests the existence of an array of commercial sexual transactions outside of the socially recognized sex industry, and that social location may affect condom use.
Patterns of sexual commerce among women at US syringe exchange programs