Photo credit: Wendy Perkins


Wendy Perkins


Perkins, Wendy.  Telling My Story Because It Needs to Be Told: A Photo-ethnography with Denver Women in the Sex Industry.

A Photo-ethnography with Denver Women in the Sex Industry

The human qualities of women in the sex industry are often overlooked or ignored. These women are not seen as someone’s daughter, sister, mother, wife, or friend. The harsh realities of the industry overshadow their individuality. Drug abuse, crime, poverty, mental illness, or desperation are more often highlighted by media. Sex industry workers are ordinary people. Some have families, multiple jobs, and life stories that are not unlike a multitude of people who are outside the industry. This photo ethnography focuses on Denver female sex workers as ordinary people rather than the stigmatized and sensationalized mainstream media presentation.

There were three commonalities among female sex workers that were revealed by this project. First is childhood molestation. Family, friends, and peers were usually the abusers. Second is mental illness. Many of the women do not know if their mental illnesses existed before or after they entered the sex industry. Third is choice. Although the women indicated that at some point they made a choice to take money and perform a service, the women did not feel they had any other options in order to survive.

This exhibit has been extensively presented at the University of Wyoming through a physical exhibit, multiple classroom presentations, and the Shepard Symposium for Social Justice. The exhibit is expected to be presented at other national conferences and venues.