Understanding Sex Work: Impacts


The concerns of commercial property owners, business owners, employees and their customers fall into four general categories:

  • problems associated with the related garbage
  • the reputation of businesses and areas in which they operate
  • safety and violence
  • concern for sex workers

Street-based, survival sex work has by far the greatest impact. The presence of condoms, condom wrappers and drug paraphernalia outside and around businesses not only creates a distasteful mess that business owners and operators feel forced to clean up, but also affects the reputation of the business and the area. Although not all sex workers have addictions and not all people with addictions are sex workers, there is a general perception that the public mess is caused by survival sex workers. Many business people believe that street-based sex work is entwined with increased crime and drug dealing.

Whether or not the perceived level of crime matches the reality, the reputation of a street or business area has a significant bearing on whether businesses will thrive. Customers may feel uncomfortable or unsafe entering businesses when sex workers are standing outside, or going to areas that they perceive are crime-ridden. With the presence and the perception of violence, it becomes difficult for businesses to attract employees. Female staff may feel especially unsafe in the areas where street-based sex work takes place because of the levels of crime and violence and because they fear being perceived as a sex worker and being approached by a customer or a pimp while going to or from their employer’s business.

Although business owners give higher priority to their concerns about the viability of their businesses, they also express concern about the safety and well-being of sex workers and sexually exploited children and youth. But they feel powerless to help. Usually business people feel their only option is to call the police; however, this usually does not resolve the underlying issues.