Labour pains: Some considerations on the difficulties of researching juvenile prostitution

  • Melrose M
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Research pragmatism in choice of methods is necessary to achieve the epistemological aim of allowing the choices of disadvantaged young people who are exploited through their involvement in prostitution to be heard. This aim must always maintain ethical integrity and, as such, the research design must implement a number of key considerations. Fieldwork in this subject area is subject to ‘emotional labour’ – the labour involved in dealing with other people’s feelings’ (James, 1989: 21). The regulation of emotion is difficult and constitutes ‘labour pains’ due to the recollection of vivid exploitation and abuse. These emotional ‘costs’ are only amplified by the practical constraints involved in such sensitive work. Many ethical issues require a form of ‘negative consent’ – access granted through an intermediary agency before meeting the participant – though, in practice, consent is often negotiated throughout the interview. Temporal constraints qualified by issues in access and sampling aggravate the emotional turmoil of some researchers. Funding bodies need to be aware of these issues. For research teams need time to be prepared and adequately staffed so as to allow for periods of ‘remission’ - i.e. time away from fieldwork and the emotional costs it means.

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  • Margaret Melrose

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