News & Updates > Sex workers – victims or threats: Practicum students explore misconceptions of im/migrant women engaged in sex work

Sex workers – victims or threats: Practicum students explore misconceptions of im/migrant women engaged in sex work

Mar 31, 2023 | News

They’re victims of exploitation, or they’re a threat to society – these are the common stereotypes and misconceptions about im/migrant women engaged in sex work. SWAN Vancouver hears these viewpoints constantly but two Brock University students recently learned, they don’t accurately describe the women we support and they can lead to some serious harm.

Sara Younes, one of SWAN’s practicum students, says she had a different take before her recent practicum with SWAN.

“I view[ed] sex work as an outcome of the patriarchy, capitalism, and histories of colonialist control where women – typically marginalized or racialized women – are used for men’s sexual pleasure as they have no choice but to resort to sex work as a source of income,’” wrote Younes in her final assignment. “This feeds into the idea that sex workers have no agency and does the harmful act of blurring the lines between sex work and human trafficking.”

In a social media assignment, Younes writes “[…] im/migrant sex workers become viewed as passive, subservient, uneducated, backward and unable to speak for themselves.”

These misconceptions are an extension of the stereotypes many Asian women face and they’re rooted in racist beliefs that Asian women, (including immigrants and migrants) are silent, easily tricked and powerless. In the context of im/migrant women in sex work, these stereotypes ignore a woman’s agency – her ability to act on her own will.

“I now have a deeper understanding of not only the barriers im/migrant sex workers are presented with but also the misconceptions within the media that paint sex workers as victims or criminals,” writes Isabella Palumbo in her final practicum assignment.

Younes and Palumbo are both enrolled in the Service Learning in Community Justice course, which is available to Critical Criminology majors at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. Their practicum involved meeting virtually with SWAN staff from January to March 2023 and reading reports and publications to learn about the individual and systemic needs of im/migrant women in sex work.

You can learn more about this subject in Im/Migrant Sex Workers: Myths & Misconceptions: Realities of the Anti-Trafficked.

While SWAN Vancouver accepts practicum students, we do not have the capacity to take on students over the next few months. Placements will be accepted again in the fall of 2023.

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