AIT Research

Research and surveys of the adult or erotic labor markets in the U.S.

AIT Research - Research and surveys of the adult or erotic labor markets in the U.S.


Important notations/definitions about terminology in this survey

Our definition of sex work (as a general term):

  • Any form of sexual or erotic labor exchanged for money, goods, services or something of need.

Sex work is a specialized labor market.
Sex work has issues with labor rights, and exploitation, just as other labor markets do.
Some sex work is done consensually, some is not.

Examples of sexual or erotic labor may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • exotic dancing
  • sensual massage
  • fetish, lingerie or nude modeling (print, live or webcam)
  • performing in porn, or other erotic adult movies/clips
  • BDSM services (as a professional submissive or Dominant)
  • fantasy role playing
  • professional escorting/companionship
  • prostitution
  • tantra
  • phone sex

We recognize that not everyone that works in adult or erotic entertainment or other areas of commercialized sex industries identify as a “sex worker” due to assumptions or implications that one is involved in criminal behavior, as not all forms of sex work are illegal.  For the purposes of this survey, we will attempt to use diverse language throughout that is representative to all areas of those working in the sex trade, but when the term “sex worker”  is used, it should be viewed as a general term for those that engage in sexual or erotic labor or other type of erotic service of their own accord (either by choice, or due to a lack of options), whether that includes direct involvement or contact with other persons or not, and may at times include non-consensual labor.

Our definition of trafficking (within the erotic labor fields):

  • any form of sexual labor performed under force, fraud or coercion.

Farm labor, construction trades, domestic labor, hospitality industry and nail salons are other examples of labor markets that also deal with issues of human trafficking. An individual does not have to be brought in from another country to be a victim of trafficking.
Besides labor trafficking, human trafficking can also occur with organ harvesting, forced marriages, panhandling, and child militias.
Human trafficking victims can be foreign or domestic, male, female, or transgender, and be any age or race.

Someone that is a “trafficker” or is trafficking in persons refers to the transportation and/or compulsion of another person into any form of labor/servitude through use of force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion, or debt bondage.

Some possible indicators of someone being trafficked are:

  • Signs of being controlled-the worker is accompanied by a controlling person and isn’t allowed to speak for themselves. The worker is taken to and from work by the controlling person; they may live and work at the same place, and are usually not allowed in public alone, if at all.
  • Lack of control over money-the worker is not able to keep the money they make.  The worker may owe debts to the person in control/trafficker which are almost impossible to pay off.
  • Anxiety, fear, depression and/or overly submissive behavior-the worker may be afraid to talk to anyone outside of their work environment or authorities as a result of threats.
  • Worker shows signs of physical abuse or torture-although, sex trafficked victims are often beaten in areas that won’t be easily seen by others.
  • The worker may have just arrived in the country-they often do not speak the language of the country, or only know sex related terms (if being trafficked in sex) in native language of the country.

Please see our Trafficking Indicators page for a more comprehensive list of possible signs of trafficking, as well as suggestions of what you can do if you suspect someone is being trafficked.