Mental health and women who sell or exchange sex
On September 2022 we held an online event exploring the impact that selling or exchanging sex can have on women’s mental health as well as their support needs. For this third event in our series, we discussed why mental health is one of the most pressing issues for women with several reports showing the prevalence of negative impacts for those involved in the 'sex industry.' The webinar was recorded and you can contact us to request a copy of the recording.
We looked at how involvement in selling/exchanging sex can affect women on three levels: the social (fear of stigma and judgement), interpersonal (problems with relationships, sustained fear of being outed), and the individual (body image issues, challenges setting up boundaries and dissociation). Finally, we talked about the power of empathetic support that sees women as humans with rich and complex lives that span beyond the selling or exchanging of sex.
The event featured two speakers from specialist organisations, who talked about their services and shared case studies to explain the interconnectedness of mental health issues with women’s other areas of need.
- Zara Wynn, a Woman’s Worker at Edinburgh-based service Another Way talk us through the service’s approach to reach to women involved in street prostitution, saunas and online selling of sex. She used the example of an older woman who has been involved in street prostitution and was exchanging sex for a place to stay. Zara highlighted vulnerabilities such as the homelessness, inability to attend appointments due to her life situation and ongoing physical health issues. She explained how the flexible supported offered enabled the woman to move to a more stable situation and concluded by asking workers to consider a series of questions, including if their services are safe for women and make them feel welcome.
- Claire and Esther joined us from You My Sister, and organisation set up to create recovery programmes for women who have been involved in the porn and sex industry. They discussed their model of recovery, the use of trainers who are themselves women with lived experience and the different steps participants go through to address issues like shame, self-blame, self-confidence, self-compassion and triggers, among others. You My Sister can partner with organisations looking to bring the programme to their area. Get in touch with them to discuss further.
Lastly, we invited attendees to hear two fictional scenarios of workers interacting with women, which exemplified poor and good practice. Attendees were invited to identify what could be improved and what went well in the scenarios. You can read them here.
If you wish to see the recording for this mental health event, please get in touch. You can also find a list of our upcoming events here. And you can subscribe to our bulletin if you want to get notified once registrations open.