Violence and vulnerability: conditions of work for streetworking prostitutes


Address for correspondence: Marina A. Barnard, Public Health Research Unit, University of Glasgow, I Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, G12 8RZ.


This paper looks at the issue of violence in the context of streetworking prostitutes and their clients in Glasgow, Scotland. Street prostitutes routinely face the threat and reality of violence in their work which suggests that the health risks associated with prostitution need to be considered not only as public health issues but also in terms of occupational health. Using data derived from semi-structured interviews as well as observation the paper focuses on the dynamics of the client/prostitute encounter. A particular focus is on the ways in which prostitutes try to establish and maintain client compliance throughout the commercial sex encounter. Prostitutes in this study framed control over the encounter as being a critical issue, particularly in terms of limiting the potential for violence to occur. Instances where prostitutes were unable to secure client compliance through intimidation on the part of the client are discussed. The strategies used by women to reduce the likelihood of client violence are considered. The paper ends with a reflection of possible policy initiatives to reduce the likelihood of client violence against prostitutes. The potential for change to take place is clearly limited by the illegalities surrounding prostitution and the highly stigmatised nature of the work.