Hi M: Hope you enjoyed the Q&A podcast I shared with you last time! Today, I want to talk about sex workers and mental health. In many ways, sex work might be the last frontier we conquer in the fight for sex positivity and acceptance of all sexual lifestyles and expressions (as long as they are consensual for everyone involved) in our society. And I’d like to do what I can to help that fight, least of all by spreading accurate scientific information about sex work. That is why I’d like to tell you about a fascinating study out of Zurich, where sex work is legal. As you know, there are all sorts of stigma and stereotypes surrounding sex work. As you might also have gathered from reading my newsletter, I don’t buy into stereotypes unless there is plenty of research and scientific studies to back it up! A frequent assumption is that sex workers have more mental health problems than the general population. Some believe that it is their mental health problems that got them into sex work in the first place, while others contend it’s the nature of the job—from social stigma, to legal and health risks, to exposure to violence and abuse—that causes their mental health to suffer. To my knowledge, no longitudinal study capable of addressing the causality issue has been conducted, but there is another, related issue that often goes unaddressed – the type of sex work. Unfortunately, no published U.S.-based research looks at different mental health profiles across different types of sex workers. But this 2010 Swiss study offers a rare glimpse. In Switzerland, sex work is not illegal, and in 2005 in Zurich, there were about 4,000 legally registered female sex workers. For this study, researchers recruited 193 of them, contacted through a variety of locations (outdoors, studios, bars, cabarets, parlors, brothels and escort services), and interviewed them at length about their mental health and experiences with sex work. The sample was 53% Swiss, 27% other European, and 19% non-European, and ranged in age from 18 to 63 (mean = 32), in age at first sex work from 12 to 52 (mean = 24), in days working per week from 1 to 7 (mean = 4), and in customers per week from 1 to 60 (mean = 14). To learn about the results of this study, check out the article on Psychology Today: Do Sex Workers Have More Mental Health Problems? And let me know what you think about this!Next time, I’ll delve into some of the stigma faced by people, women in particular, who have casual sex (or are even perceived to have casual sex) with many different partners: The infamous slut-shaming. Until then, stay curious! Dr. Zhana