Mountaineer Undergraduate Research Review

Document Type



“Sex Workers of West Virginia: Contrasting Experiences” set out to explore the relationship between sex work and identities for sex workers that have worked within the state of West Virginia. The primary goal was to be able to tell a story about why participants began doing sex work and how their economic identities, sexual identities, gender identities, and racial identities have impacted their experiences. While exploring these identities is not uncommon across research involving sex work, previous literature that has shown correlation between identities and likelihood of participating in sex work has only occurred within largely urban areas and research focusing on individuals tended towards victimizing sex workers and predicting their experiences. Instead, through using open-ended questions, this project centers in on individual-level experiences and allows sex workers to tell their own stories which showed that the experiences of sex workers within West Virginia are just as unique as the state itself. Common to participating sex workers within West Virginia is economic-based motivation, recognition of gender, race, and sexuality impacting their work, and strong messages surrounding stigma and empowerment.



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