Correlates of current transactional sex among a sample of female exotic dancers in Baltimore, MD

Jacqueline Reuben, Chris Serio-Chapman, Christopher Welsh, Richard Matens, Susan G. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Transactional sex work, broadly defined as the exchange of money, drugs, or goods for sexual services, occurs in a wide range of environments. There is a large body of research characterizing the risks and harms associated with street- and venue-based sex work, but there is a dearth of research characterizing the risk associated with the environment of exotic dance clubs. The current study aimed to: (1) characterize the nature of female exotic dancers' sex- and drug-related risk behaviors, (2) to examine the role of the club environment in these behaviors, and (3) to examine correlates of currently exchanging sex. From June 2008 to February 2009, we conducted a cross-sectional study among women who were aged 18 years or older and reported exotic dancing within the past 3 months (n= 98). The survey ascertained socio-demographic characteristics, personal health, medical history, sexual practices, drug use, and employment at clubs on the block. Bivariate and multivariate Poisson regression with robust variance was used to identify correlates of current sex exchange. Participants were a median of 24 years old, and were 58% white; 43% had not completed high school. Seventy-four percent reported ever having been arrested. Twenty-six percent reported having injected heroin and 29% reported having smoked crack in the past 3 months. Fifty-seven percent reported using drugs in the club in the past 3 months. Sixty-one percent had ever engaged in transactional sex, and 67% of those did so for the first time after beginning to dance. Forty-three percent reported selling any sex in the club in the past 3 months. In multiple Poisson regression, factors associated with current sex exchange included: race, ever having been arrested, and using drugs in the club. High levels of both drug use and transactional sex among this sample of exotic dancers were reported. These findings indicate that there are a number of drug- and sex-related harms faced by exotic dancers in strip clubs, implicating the environment in the promotion of HIV/STI risk-taking behaviors. Prevention and intervention programs targeting this population are needed to reduce the harms faced by exotic dancers in this environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-351
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Exotic dancers
  • Female sex workers
  • Heroin
  • Illicit drug use
  • Risk behaviors
  • Risk environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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