Talk Back: Sex Workers in the Maritimes.


274 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-7748-1331-8
DDC 305.9'3067409715





Reviewed by Allison Sivak

Allison Sivak is a librarian in the Science and Technology Library at
the University of Alberta.


This study of sex workers in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia seeks to demonstrate that the idea of “one story” of the sex trade is a myth, based on the findings from 60 interviews with sex workers in the cities of Saint John, Fredericton, Dartmouth, and Halifax. The interview group is diverse: 48 women, 10 men, and two transgendered persons, all between the ages of 18 and 52. The authors’ primary goal is to illustrate forms of sex workers’ resistance to the common — and limited — views held of them by law enforcement, some feminist scholars, the media, and indeed, greater society.


Using semi-structured interviews, the researchers asked general questions of the interviewees, allowing them to guide the conversation: what is good or bad about the job, what are their biggest concerns and issues, and what would they like to tell society at large about their work? The answers given to these questions demonstrate a great diversity of perspectives and opinion, showing sex workers as neither passive victims nor hardened criminals, but “social actors” who make choices based on options they see open to them.


This book details the interviewed workers’ reasons for choosing this work, the benefits and difficulties involved, and the dangers that result from the strange legal positioning of sex work in Canada, where the act of working as a prostitute is not illegal, but communicating for the purposes of selling sex is. The authors also include analyses of interviews with police officers, the present laws around prostitution, and media portrayals of sex workers. They summarize with a useful survey of recommendations that, according to their interviewees and analysis, would serve to protect sex workers from some of the health and safety risks that they currently face.


The book is timely, its publication coinciding with the trial and conviction of Robert William Pickton for a series of Vancouver murders. The delayed response of police and the public to these murders has been attributed to the fact that several of the victims worked as prostitutes. Sex Workers in the Maritimes Talk Back suggests ways to avoid similar tragedies.


Jeffrey, Leslie Ann, and Gayle MacDonald., “Talk Back: Sex Workers in the Maritimes.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024,