Students & Researchers

Please read the material on this website. You will find information and links to materials that will help you with your research.

Sex workers are experts in their own field – if you are not a sex worker, don’t assume your research is needed by sex workers or will “solve their problems”.

When researching the sex industry, please be mindful of what other people have contributed to the debate:

‘An unfortunate consequence of much sex work research is that it can reaffirm the perception that sex workers lack the ability to make informed decisions about their lives and work.’ Additionally, ‘conventional research on sex work does little to help illuminate questions such as how sex workers are engaging in community change and in struggles for their human rights’ (van der Meulen 2011 p371).

Sex workers have a long-standing belief of ‘nothing about us without us,’ which applied initially to activism around legal and health decisions that were made for sex workers with no contribution from sex workers. The belief can be applied in research settings as well, when researchers see sex workers as “objects to be studied, rescued, corrected or controlled,” (Kenny 2006 p23) rather than as active participants in the research process.

Participatory Action Research

“It is participatory in the sense that people can only do action research “on” themselves, either individually or collectively. It is not research done “on” others, (Kemmis & McTaggart 2005 p567.)

It “can be a highly effective way to challenge problematic conceptualizations and to ensure that the voices of the community are not overshadowed by ideology,” (van der Meulen 2011 p 379.)

RhED receives a lot of requests from students seeking support for research assignments. We encourage students to be specific about what parts of the sex industry they want to research, and to then read materials which can be sourced from this website and your own university library.

You may find the following RhED webinars helpful:
What is sex work and who are sex workers?
Sex work, licensing and barriers
Re-framing sex work

These websites may also be useful:

Scarlet Alliance

Global Network of Sex Work Projects

If you are seeking support from RhED to work together on research in the sex industry, formal requests together with ethics approval are to be made to RhED management.

For more information phone RhED 1800 458 752 or email


Kemmis, S. and McTaggart, R. (2005) Participatory Action Research in Denzin, N. and Lincoln, Y. (eds) Handbook for Qualitative Research 3rd Edition, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications 563-568

Kenny, S. 2006. The Nature of Community Development, in Developing Communities for the Future. Melbourne: Thomson 3-37,

van der Meulen, E. 2011 Action research with sex workers: Dismantling barriers and building bridges SAGE Action Research 2011 9: 370

van der Meulen, E. (2011a). Participatory and action-oriented dissertations: The challenges and importance of community-engaged graduate research. The Qualitative Report, 16(5), 1291-1303