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If only we could get the street prostitutes to stop selling sex, their lives would improve. This appears to be the prevailing view among Danes — including those whose work consists of helping prostitutes.
However, you gain an entirely different perspective if you take a closer look at the lives that these women live. She has interviewed 40 Danish women who sell sex on the streets, and it turns out that the women do not regard their sex trading as the biggest problem in their lives. To these women, the real problems are a lack of trust from their surroundings, homelessness, poor personal finances, drug abuse, the relationship with their children and the social system. From to , she carried out her ethnographic fieldwork at a drop-in centre for women who trade sex and take drugs.
The women in the study had very limited education and little experience with the labour market. Their network is primarily to be found in the street environment or at the social office — and that limits their freedom. They feel that there is a shortage of alternatives to sex trading. It solves some problems, but at the same time it creates new ones. It has perceived the prostituted women as different, as victims of male violence.
The women are assumed to need help to get a better life — and not least to make the right choices. This, she says, is because social workers are used to regarding the women as victims. This rigid view of sex traders has the consequence that the women feel walked over, because they do not see themselves as victims.
The see themselves as independent women who make rational choices based on the options available to them. The new thesis does not provide any conclusive solutions to how social authorities should deal with women who sell sexual services. To many of the women, the prostitution is not their problem. For them it can be a bigger problem that they feel let down and out of place, are homeless, rarely see their children or have serious relationship problems. We need to take an interest in them and their perspectives on life, rather than feeling sorry for them.