Beginning in May 2014, Mikayla Bobrow and Hannah Yore began work with various organizations and communities of sex workers in Worcester, MA in order to familiarize themselves with community needs and local discourses around sex work. Researchers found that sex workers reported feelings of isolation and misrepresentation in the media and by law enforcement. Women also expressed a desire to expose their lived experiences without fear of repercussion. They emphasized that they wanted their experiences and identities to be understood. Perhaps most importantly, sex workers emphasized their desire to have control over their representation in public conversation. Thus, this project developed as a response to reported community needs and concerns about the representation, stigmatization and treatment of sex workers in Worcester, MA.
Women interested in participating in the oral history project meet directly with the two researchers, Mikayla Bobrow and Hannah Yore, and are welcome to share any aspect of their story. These oral histories are conducted conversationally without specific interview questions in order to ensure that the researchers do not dictate the nature or content of women’s narratives.
After conducting the oral history, women have the opportunity to review the transcription of their stories and engage in an editing process with the researchers to choose sections of their narrative for publication. This allows participants control over what is shared with the public and gives them a second opportunity to ensure they are comfortable with content. The researchers do this at least a week after the oral history to allow women to make changes to their narratives after having time to reflect on what they shared. Women are also asked at this time to choose a pseudonym to protect their anonymity in this process. Other markers of identity are changed in the editing process.