Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


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Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Stacey Hanem

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Clients of sex workers face criminalization and stigmatization in Canada and across the globe; they are commonly depicted by their stereotypes in entertainment and news media and have become a more visible population with the advent of the internet and online erotic review boards. However, these people are infrequently represented by their own voices and stories in academic research and, as such, the reality of being a client is not encompassed by the existing literature. An accurate and comprehensive understanding of the sex industry is particularly important in the twenty-first century, as the laws surrounding sex work in Canada – and around the world – are being challenged, altered, and updated. In this qualitative research project, I address this gap by presenting the voices of fourteen clients, analyzing this data to identify key themes, and providing suggestions for future research which can further investigate the lived experiences of clients.

This project is based on an interpretive paradigm informed by grounded theory and the sensitizing concepts of stigma, risk, and symbolic interactionism. Fourteen male clients of sex workers were recruited through an online erotic review board and interviewed, in person, about their experiences as a client. The results of this data collection and my subsequent analysis showed several key themes, including three unique findings which particularly contribute to this growing body of literature.

First, several clients in this sample hire sex workers in order to manage a physical, sexual, or mental health problem. This is not a motivation found in the literature, even though sex workers have often claimed to provide therapeutic services to their clients; this indicates that there is an entire framework to sex work that is often overlooked, ignored, or under-emphasized when researchers study sex work from the perspective of the client.

In addition, many of these clients have a fundamental interest and attraction to intimacy. Most client research defines and/or discusses ‘regular’ clients, a subset of clients who pursue strong relationships with one or few sex worker(s); this research either does not address the remainder of clients or assumes that they prefer to pursue a variety of sex workers out of a carnal drive separate from an interest in authentic bonds. I introduce an advanced four-part typology of the client that improves upon the existing dichotomy by grounding these categories in context, intention, and individual impressions of intimacy.

Lastly, I present and discuss the transformation of a very specific hourly rate – in this case, two hundred dollars – from a literal amount of real-world dollars to a symbolic object that represents value, safety, and the ideal experience. This approach to the economy of the sex industry emphasizes the meaning-making process that clients undertake to construct meanings surrounding specific price points.

The participants in this study share their voices in an attempt to expand general knowledge and understanding of the lived experiences of clients. In the body of this paper, three unique findings join several prevalent themes supported by the literature to create a window into the lives of fourteen clients of sex workers.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Criminology Commons