Sexual practices of female sex workers in Melbourne, Australia: An anonymous cross-sectional questionnaire study in 2017-18

Annalisa Zappulla, Christopher K. Fairley, Basil Donovan, Rebecca Guy, Catriona S. Bradshaw, Marcus Y. Chen, Tiffany R. Phillips, Kate Maddaford, Eric P.F. Chow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are rising among female sex workers (FSW) in Australia. The rise might be explained by changes in sexual practices; however, there is limited behavioural data available. This study aimed to explore the current sexual practices among FSW in Melbourne. Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted among FSW at Melbourne Sexual Health Centre between September 2017 and March 2018. Participants were asked about current sexual practices with male clients in an average working week. The frequency and proportion of each sexual practice was calculated. Results: There were 180 questionnaires included in the analysis. The median age of the FSW was 28 years (interquartile range [IQR]: 25-34). Most FSW (80.6%) worked in brothels. In an average working week, FSW had a median of 10 (IQR: 7-20) male clients. The most common sexual practices included: vaginal sex (98.3%), fellatio (97.2%), cunnilingus (92.2%) and tongue-kissing (83.7%). FSW had a median number of 10 (IQR: 6-18) vaginal, 10 (IQR: 5-18) fellatio, 7 (IQR: 2-10) cunnilingus and 6 (IQR: 2-10) tongue-kissing clients. Consistent condom use with all clients was highest for vaginal sex (97.1%), followed by anal sex (92.3%), then fellatio (78.9%). Only 3.1% used dental dams consistently for cunnilingus. Conclusion: Consistent condom use with all clients was high among FSWs, especially for vaginal and anal sex. However, one-fifth of FSW had condomless fellatio during an average working week. Tongue-kissing was more common than previously published. Peer-led sexual health education on safe sex practice for FSW is of high importance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-60
Number of pages8
JournalSexual Health
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2020

Keywords

  • condom use
  • saliva
  • sex work
  • sexually transmissible infections
  • tongue-kissing
  • sex worker
  • female sex worker
  • Sexual practice
  • sexual behaviour
  • Melbourne
  • Condom

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