Accepted Paper:

How do we change the world (or bits of it)? Lessons learned from research on sex work in Northern Ireland  

Author:

Susann Huschke (Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Paper short abstract:

This paper offers a critical reflection on a mixed methods study on the Northern Irish sex industry conducted in 2014. It addresses the question how we can conduct and present research and affect policy in a hostile, morally charged political climate.

Paper long abstract:

This paper offers a critical reflection on a mixed methods study on the Northern Irish sex industry conducted in 2014. The study was funded by the NI Department of Justice to inform the policy process regarding the criminalization of paying for sex (the so-called 'Swedish model'). The key findings directly contradicted the dominant policy narrative that further criminalization would lead to less sex work and less sex trafficking and would assist in 'rescuing' those who sell sex. It was found that the majority of sex workers oppose the 'Swedish model' and that the majority of clients are likely to continue paying for sex in any case. By refusing to present all sex workers as helpless victims and all clients as misogynist monsters, the study profoundly challenged the conservative moral views prevalent in Northern Ireland's policy landscape. It is thus not surprising, perhaps, that the results of the research were widely misrepresented or ignored. In this paper, I reflect on how the study was conducted and how and to whom we presented our findings. The aim here is to explain why our findings were dismissed, and what lessons can be learned from this experience. How can we conduct and present research and affect policy in a hostile, morally charged political climate?

Panel P099
Going public: writing and speaking outside the ivory tower