Is there more sex work than before?

It is difficult to estimate accurately the numbers of sex workers in the UK in the past. It is thought that numbers in the Victorian era were either over- or under-estimated depending on the agenda of the observer, and were often likely to include women who were simply living outside conventional moral frameworks. Much sex work has also been clandestine, casual or seasonal, complicating the picture further[78].

Similarly, it is difficult to estimate the numbers of sex workers in the UK today, partly because of the continuing stigma associated with this work, and partly because of the different ways in which people categorize sex work; for example, whether they include erotic dancers and porn performers or not. Women make up the overwhelming majority of sex workers[79], though men also perform sex work. Data on the number of trans* sex workers, a group that is particularly vulnerable to health problems and to violence, is especially sparse. It has been reported that there has been an increase in students involved in sex work, and that large sporting events lead to an increase in sex work, but neither of these claims is supported by evidence[80]. There is some evidence to suggest a growth in online sex commerce as part of a more general growth in online commerce[81].

What about sex trafficking?

78. Mason, M. (1994). The Making of Victorian Sexuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. See also Victorian Sex Factoids,
79. Cusick, L., Kinnell, H., Brooks-Gordon, B. & Campbell, R. (2009). Wild Guesses and Conflated Meanings: Estimating the Size of the Sex Worker Population in Britain. Journal of Critical Social Policy, 29(4), 703-719.
80. Ham, J. (2011). What’s the cost of a rumour?: A guide to sorting out the myths and the facts about sporting events and trafficking. Global Alliance Against the Traffic in Women,
81. Cunningham, S. & Kendall, T. D. (2011). Prostitution 2.0 The Changing Face of Sex Work. Journal of Urban Economics, 69(3), 273-87. Brooks-Gordon, B. M. (2010). Bellwether Citizens: The regulation of male clients of sex workers. Journal of Law and Society, 37(1), 145-170; Roberts, R. (2010). Researching students in sex work: Market values and academic freedom. Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy, 10(1), 12-17.

What about sex trafficking?