Women who buy sexual services in the UK

Principal investigator Dr Sarah Kingston

The study, led by principal investigator Dr Sarah Kingston, of Lancaster University, and co-led by Dr Natalie Hammond at Manchester Metropolitan seeks to find out more about women’s experiences of buying sexual services in the United Kingdom; what they buy, their reasons for buying sex, how they negotiate their physical and sexual safety and how their experiences feed into current policy debates.

The study has been funded jointly by The British Academy and The Leverhulme Trust and is supported by local sex work charities/services including Genesis Leeds and MASH, Manchester.

Previous research has documented how female sex buyers travel to destinations such as the Caribbean and Asia to purchase sex. Yet there is little research on women who buy sex in the UK, despite recent research on male clients. This study seeks to explore motivations and characteristics of women who purchase sex, who and where they buy sex from and to explore how physical and sexual safety are negotiated. This exploratory study will involve interviewing male and/or female escorts who sell sex to women, as well as interviews with female clients in the UK.

This is an important study for a number of reasons:

  1. Challenge Policy

    UK prostitution policy and policing is inherently gendered, overlooking female sex buyers.

  2. Greater Understanding

    We know little about whether women buy sex in the UK, what they buy, how they buy it, when in their lives, who from and what it means to their lives.

  3. Female Opinion

    Prostitution is often seen as “violence against women” and recent policy debates make these links, but can this/does this apply to women who buy sex, and what do women who buy sex think about these suggestions?

  4. Health and Safety

    The study aims to increase knowledge of the health and safety of female clients. The study is looking at the possibility of developing an app to improve the health and safety of female clients.

The study aims to engage the public and encourage participation to promote a better understanding of research to the general public and to take this subject outside academia.

Find more information about the project or you can follow the project on Twitter @womenwhobuysex