Sexualized Racism: Inequities and Complex Trauma in Commercial Sex Markets and Implications for Social Work Practice

Christina Melander & Lauren Martin | September 22 | 11:30 AM-12:30 PM | Room 2584

Contemporary research on sex work and sex trafficking has highlighted the overrepresentation of persons of color (POC) involved in trading sex, addressing the interplay of poverty, institutional violence, historical trauma, and limited choices as undergirding the racial disparities for provider/victims. However, little research explores this marketplace with an intersectional analysis. This presentation explores qualitative data from interviews (N=157) with social service providers and criminal justice personnel who work closely with these populations in Minnesota (2015-2016). This research comparatively analyzes sex buyer demographics and provider/victim demographics alongside sex buyer preferences/treatment. Interviewees described experiences of POC provider/victims, which were influenced by structural racism and inequality as “push” factors, and sex buyer preferences and treatment of them due to their race/ethnicity. These experiences included racial fetishization, derogatory racial slurs, physical and sexual assaults, and less money to the dollar for sex acts compared to white provider/victims. This research supports a growing understanding of sex trafficking and commercial sex as racial justice and equity issues, as well as adds to practice-based knowledge of complex traumas that persons of color who trade sex may experience.

Presentation Objectives:

·       Gain insight about sex trafficking as an intersectional issue (race/gender/class)

·       Learn implications and strategies for macro social work practice

·       Gain takeaways for clinical social work practice

About the Presenters