Sex Work and Motherhood: Case Studies of Edmonton and Toronto
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The purpose of this thesis was to examine the complex relationship that exists between lone motherhood and sex work. Utilizing the idea of particularlism, I argue that it is important to understand the environmental context of mothers and the variety and uniqueness of women’s experiences in order for the state to respond with directed policies for lone parents. In order to discover whether or not sex workers who are single mothers have unique needs and experiences, I conducted 15 semi structured interviews with independent escort workers from Toronto and Edmonton. The interviewees reported leading a double life characterized by shame, fear, stigmatization and discrimination. It was discovered that the double life which many women live is not only stressful, but is also a serious impediment to their ability to effectively parent. I argue that it is the current legal status of sex work which poses barriers to these women in achieving financial stability, equal rights, social comfort, access to quality services, and child support; all of which are points that are integral to effective parenting. As such, I assert that decriminalization and the recognition of sex work as work, grants these women access to the support that other working mothers may have, but also directs attention to the societal stigma and discrimination that moralizes and punishes sex workers. Ultimately, I contend that when sex workers are granted equal rights and access to supportive institutions they are capable of effective parenting. Beyond decriminalization, I make a series of recommendations based on the needs expressed throughout the interviews. The implementation of these recommendations could be hastened by decriminalization and a strong sex workers union. They include: flexible child care, altered service delivery, a non judgmental legal system and sensitivity training.