Research for no reason: Academically present, politically vacant

Stream: Contemporary Issues in Sex Work
Date: Thursday, 31 March 2016
Time: 1.45 pm – 3.00 pm


Aims: To assess if researchers who have studied sex work in NSW during their careers are represented in the current campaign to maintain decriminalisation of sex work in NSW.

Methods: Qualitative media review 2006-Present. Quantitative analysis of submissions to NSW Committees on decriminalisation of sex work.

Results: Researchers who study sex work in NSW are not represented within the NSW political sphere of current campaigns to maintain decriminalisation in NSW. Sex workers are by far more statistically likely to be present in the media and to submit to relevant NSW Committees. Health institutions are also well represented. There are standout researchers, such as Basil Donovan and Eva Cox, who are present politically. This is an anomaly, yet has a measurable impact on the political landscape.

Discussion: Ethics committees, supervisors and researchers themselves need to interrogate the reasons for research with sex work. Decriminalisation is in danger of being repealed in NSW and yet most researchers on sex work remain dangerously silent on the issue. Problematically, it is not uncommon for research on sex work in NSW is used against sex work law reform efforts. Researchers who have unintentionally harmed the politics within this landscape have made no effort to correct their mistakes.

Conclusion: There is a history of research projects on sex work in NSW where partnership with sex work communities is done very badly. As such perhaps it is not a bad thing that these researchers are politically vacant; preventing potential harms to the political process.


Elena Jeffreys (Presenter), School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland
Biography to come.