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Research Domain: Group Five - Informal Learning in Different Workplaces

Title of Project: Learning Safer Sex

Start Date: April 1, 1997
Academic Co-Investigators: Dr. Diane Meaghan (Seneca), 
Dr. Jody Hanson (University of Waikato)
Student Researcher: Stephanie McMahon (OISE/UT)

The research intends to study the ways in which women can learn safer sex practices from the knowledge and experience of women involved in the sex-trade industry. In the course of their daily work, sex workers deal with issues involving intimacy, decision-making, communication, negotiation and assertiveness. Since sexual self-assurance and control are key considerations for sex workers, they often learn safer sex practices which minimize danger and promote safer sex practices.

Within a framework of women-centred, informal learning practices of adult education, the researchers inquire about the implications of using the skills and knowledge sex workers to assist women (both inside and outside of the sex industry), in gaining greater control over their personal and sexual lives. By using the experiences of sex workers to informal women's sexual agency, it is anticipated that an understanding of safe and self-affirming strategies, might be used to replace risk-taking behaviour.

We asked the research question: "How does a woman learn to practice safer sex?" involving physical, emotional and sexual safety for all parties involved. The starting point of analysis is an examination of the specific attitudes, skills and knowledge that sex workers acquire, making them successful in learning to establish autonomy and to work safely. Focussing on the experiences of sex workers as adult learners, raises questions about the possibility of developing a woman-centred pedagogy of safer sex practices. Given the ways in which sex workers challenge the formation of concepts concerns sexuality to establish autonomy and power for themselves, suggests the potential for expanding the definition of adult educators to include sex workers.


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