Emancipatory sex work research: narratives of a hidden population

Alison Torn, Kate Lister

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Within academia, narrative methods have been extensively used to explore those subjectivities that have been traditionally marginalised by both society and academia. As one of these groups, sex workers are stigmatised, often criminalized figures, and historically, they have had little opportunity to speak without intermediaries. Rather, their stories and voices have been assumed by journalists, activists, and academics. However, with the advent of social media platforms, this is rapidly changing; social media has allowed sex workers a public voice, a discursive space to engage with those speaking for them and about them. Online sex worker communities have been formed, alliances made and agendas set.
This paper explores how the microblogging platform Twitter provides a narrative space for sex workers to shape their identities, constructing a collective narrative identity that evolves over time. Twitter offers sex workers a platform to resist dominant academic and media narratives, but also a space to engage with others within the sex work community in an active process of communication. The narrative exchange facilitated is one of democratisation, as Twitter facilitates a discussion, not a lecture, and enables an ethical shift in researching sex work. With the sex worker rights movement mantra ‘Nothing about us without us’ Twitter provides a platform for the sex worker voice to be heard. For academics, microblogging challenges what constitutes narrative, the digital spaces where narrative identities are constructed, forcing us to turn our attention to different virtual spheres.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 5 Jul 2018
EventNarrative Matters Annual Conference - University of Twente, Netherlands
Duration: 2 Jul 20185 Jul 2018

Academic conference

Academic conferenceNarrative Matters Annual Conference


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