My first foray into sex work research took place in India during my doctoral research, when I was fortunate to be part of an international India-Canada collaborative project about traditional systems of sex work within the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I learned a great deal about gender, sexuality, the cultural construction of childhood, and the impact of HIV on the lives of the women and girls I met.
It was an eye-opening experience that changed my life and continues to shape my research to this day. I made three research trips to India during my studies and was last there in 2015, when I finally got to see the Taj Mahal. What a sight to behold! India will always have a very special place in my heart.
I have published extensively on this research, in journal articles and book chapters as well as conference presentations and guest lectures.
I have undertaken sex work research across Canada, primarily in Vancouver, London, and Kitchener-Waterloo. I’m also part of collaborative sex work projects with other Canadian and American researchers that explore issues like legislation, social services, health, motherhood, and identity. Details about the Canadian & American collaborations are in my CV.
I have also written about sex trafficking, which is based on my on-going research in London and observations of international trends and dialogues related to this complex, often divisive issue.
Until I moved to London, there hadn’t been much attention paid to how sex work is structured and what the lives of the people involved are like. I led four studies in the city and helped put London on the sex work research map, in collaboration with my community partner My Sister’s Place (MSP). MSP is a transitional support house that provides a range of supportive services and referrals for women struggling with mental health issues, addictions, poverty, homelessness, and violence.
Along with the organization of sex work, other projects examined health care and social services, interpersonal and structural violence, childhood, family dynamics, and the link between different city spaces and safety. I have published extensively on this research, in journal articles and book chapters as well as conference presentations and guest lectures.
This project involved women and transgender women and the main issues we wanted to understand were health care, social services, different kinds of violence, and how space shapes the women’s experiences of street-based sex work.
Given the relatively small size of the city and the marginalized status of trans sex workers, we only met five of these participants and the majority of our sample were cis-gender women. This project is one of only two existing research studies based in the twin-city hub, and we have published two peer-reviewed articles to date, with more on the way!
A sample of the projects I’ve led & contributed to surrounding sex work and individuals engaged in this field of work:
- Orchard, T. (2019). Sex Work and Prostitution, an invited contribution to The Encyclopedia of Sexuality and Gender, Editor-in-Chief Amy Lykins, Section Editor Roberto Refinetti. Switzerland: Springer Press. In Press.
- Dewey, S., Zhang, T. & Orchard, T. (2016). Sex workers and Criminalization in North America and China: Ethical and Legal Issuesin Exclusionary Regimes, NYC: Springer Press (Springer Briefs in Anthropology- Anthropology and Ethics)
- Orchard, T., Murie, A., Elash, H., Middleton, C., Bunch, M., & Benoit, C. (2019). Balance, Capacity, and The Contingencies of Everyday Life: Narrative Etiologies of Health Among Women in Street-Based Sex Work, Qualitative Health Research, https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732319855967