“So It’s Not Always the Sappy Story”: Women of Colour and Indigenous Women in the Indoor Sectors of the Canadian Sex Industry Speak Out

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Raguparan, Menaka




The lived experiences of racialised and Indigenous indoor sex workers are often made to be invisible. Frequently, they are left unmarked and are imbedded within White indoor sex workers' experiences; alternately, stereotypes about racialised and Indigenous sex workers mean their experiences are overgeneralised and assumed to be part of street-based sectors. This study draws on forty in-depth interviews with racialised and Indigenous indoor sex workers from nine different cities across Canada in order to bring their intersectional experiences to the forefront of contemporary discussions.

Grounded in Kimberlé Crenshaw's conceptualisation of intersectionality, this dissertation takes a post-intersectionality approach of collaborative intersectionality to examine the multi-layered experiences of research participants and expose multidimensional, inter-categorical complexities of and differences between participants' experiences. With the objectives of deconstructing and, at times, decolonising normative assumptions, attitudes, and political initiatives that essentialise the experiences of women in the Canadian sex industry, this study addresses a much-needed research gap by looking at racialised and Indigenous women's participation in different indoor sectors. Furthermore, it contributes to valuable analyses on human rights, employment standards, agency, and resistance within a growing body of critical sex work literature.

Tracing the experiences of research participants involved two key components: first, mapping their decisions to enter and work in the sex industry by weighing the costs and benefits against various systemic challenges; and second, exploring their everyday intersectional experiences in multiple spaces and at different times - for instance, the diplomatic negotiation and navigation of their identities, the entrepreneurial tasks performed to compete in the marketplace, their experience interacting with law enforcement, and their encounters with sex work activism. These discussions involve situating research participants' experiences within social, political, and economic contexts that are informed by historical events such as colonialism, slavery, and moral panics, as well as by contemporary events that are centred around, for example, neoliberal commercialism and whorephobia, in order to navigate the effects of stigma, criminalisation and marginalisation in their day-to-day lives.


Ethnic and Racial Studies
Gender Studies




Carleton University

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Legal Studies

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Theses and Dissertations

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