This article provides an overview of the social responses to prostitution since the mid 1800s and how the responses of social workers have been shaped by shifting social contexts. Understanding the complex interplay of these forces is key to mapping out the divergent social work practice approaches with sex workers and their influence over time. The article presents three main constructs which have influenced social work responses to sex work; 1) the notion that women needed to be protected for their own good, 2) competing class values and, 3) social control.

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