Sex workers in Canada: 17 interesting facts from first national report

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      Researchers have released what’s being called the first national report on the sex industry in Canada—and some of its findings may surprise you.

      The working paper, whose lead author is Cecilia Benoit of the University of Victoria, will be discussed at an international symposium in Ottawa on September 22 and 23. It’s based on five studies undertaken in St. John’s, Montréal, Kitchener, Fort McMurray, Calgary, and Victoria.

      “Based on our study, many of the people linked to Canada’s sex industry—workers and their intimate partners, managers and clients—have much in common with other Canadians. By and large, they are Canadian-born, Caucasian, in their 30s or 40s with a high school diploma and some form of post-secondary education or training,” the report states.

      Here’s 17 interesting findings from the paper. All figures correspond to study participants only.

      • The median income is $39,500 for sex workers, $42,000 for managers, and $60,000 for sex buyers.

      • The average age of sex workers’ first sale was 26 years old, and the median age of sex buyers’ first purchase was 25 years old.

      • 29 percent of sex workers first sold a sexual service before the age of 19.

      • The average sex worker has 10 years of experience, and the average sex buyer has 16 years of experience.

      • 89 percent of sex workers were born in Canada.

      • 29 percent of sex workers spent some of their childhood in foster care or another form of government care.

      • 67 percent of sex workers finished high school, and 15 percent have a bachelor’s degree or more.

      • 77 percent of sex workers identify as women, 17 percent as men, and 6 percent as other genders.

      • 66 percent of sex workers report a different gender presentation on the job than in their personal lives. (“Most reported they are more feminine in their work lives.”)

      • 45 percent of sex workers identify as straight, 38 percent as bisexual or bi-curious, 6 percent as gay or lesbian, and 11 percent as other sexual orientations.

      • Sex buyers purchase a sexual service a median of four times a year.

      • 65 percent of sex buyers used in-call services in the past year, 55 percent visited massage parlours, 39 percent used out-call services, while only 17 percent bought sex on the street.

      • 20 percent of sex workers rated their job as very or extremely stressful; in contrast, 43 percent of sex workers ranked their personal lives as very or extremely stressful.

      • 97 percent of sex workers have been tested for HIV/AIDs, compared to 68 percent of sex buyers.

      • 69 percent of sex workers reported using a condom every time they had sex with a client in the last month.

      • 15 percent of sex workers had at least one sex-work-related injury, but only 1 percent of injured sex workers had submitted a sex-work-related claim to the Workers Compensation Board.

      • 99 percent of sex buyers are in favour of legalizing prostitution.



      Industry insight

      Sep 20, 2014 at 2:34am

      Prostitution was never illegal in Canada. Soliciting in public however is, as well as making $$$ off the "avails of prostitution" (pimping). Behind closed doors, independent girls have always worked freely within the confines of the law.


      Sep 20, 2014 at 7:33am

      It's good to finally see something from Canada based in reality and surveying actual sex workers, instead of the usual myths, stereotypes, and fear-mongering from much of the media who are so biased in favour of prohibition, or perhaps naïve and gullible enough to believe the fictional prohibitionist nonsense.
      I just hope enough of the media in Canada are willing to admit that maybe they have been wrong.

      Uncle Jack

      Sep 20, 2014 at 3:27pm

      Just two simple questions:

      1. What is a "sex manager"?? The pimp??
      2. Concerning the "work related" injuries. Who caused them, the "managers", or the clients?? Not clear!


      Sep 20, 2014 at 5:46pm

      About time. Canada is more orderly and law abiding although rebellious too. (like that makes sense) This survey should be done in US. The politicians would legalize it, so long as the taxes are at 40% and the politicians get freebies.

      Good for Canadian sex workers have this woman speak for them. Legalizing it would remove the stigma, and work comp should be mandated along with testing. But the "do-gooders" who hate guns also hate people making their own decisions. So do the NOW lesbians who only want prostitution for themselves.


      Sep 20, 2014 at 9:12pm

      Among the "interesting findings" was there any data supporting correlation between the length of shlong to income generated?


      Sep 20, 2014 at 9:54pm

      T justhe commonly stated age by many in the US media, and the anti prostitution groups say sex workers began working is given in the us as 12. This is clearly crazy false , but when promoters of this family are told that means that tens of thousands started at 7 or 8, theYst deny it. This study isn't alone as several researchers have shown some of the reality. I hope this nrwxstudy has some impact, but I doubt it. Like global warming deniers. Truth can be avoided.

      Rob Gregson

      Sep 20, 2014 at 10:25pm

      Why don't we use the unoccupied bike lanes as sex trade worker zones in the evenings?


      Sep 21, 2014 at 12:43am

      Interesting results. Not quite the picture we normally get, and lots of other information isn't presented here. Are the girls facing the Ottawa anti-prostitution committee talking mainly for the street girls then? Why are the home lives more stressful than work? That's backwards, isn't it?.
      So many questions, so little reliable data....


      Sep 21, 2014 at 2:05pm

      '15 percent of sex workers had at least one sex-work-related injury' This is low. In the UK the abuse and attacks which health workers in Accident and Emergency get is far higher. Suggests selling sex is safer that working in Health Care.