"This is our sanctuary": Perceptions of safety among exotic dancers in Baltimore, Maryland

Pamela Lilleston, Jacqueline Reuben, Susan G. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Occupational safety researchers have increasingly recognized the important influence of social and structural factors on safety perception and behaviors in occupational settings. This qualitative study was conducted to explore the nature of the safety climate of exotic dance clubs in Baltimore, Maryland and the mechanisms through which this sexual geography informs dancers' perceptions of safety and experience of sex work. Structured observations and semi-structured qualitative interviews (. N=40) were conducted with club dancers, doormen, managers, and bartenders from May through August, 2009. Data were analyzed using an inductive approach whereby themes emerged from the data itself. . Atlas-ti was used for data analysis. Perceptions of safety within exotic dance clubs were born from an interplay between the physical, social, and symbolic environments. These perceptions were closely tied to dancers' construction of sex work inside versus outside the club. Understanding the contextual factors, which influence how dancers understand and prioritize risk in their work settings, is crucial for creating policies and programs, which effectively reduce risk in this environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-567
Number of pages7
JournalHealth and Place
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Safety
  • Safety climate
  • Sex work
  • Sexual geography
  • Strip club

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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