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Book Review: Work, Money and Duality – Dr Raven Bowen 

By: Ryan Gilmour & Karen Lucia Ngay-Katalay 

Raven Bowen’s Work, Money and Duality, focuses on the stories of side hustle sex workers, people who rely on the sex industry bolster their income. Its purpose is to investigate dual lives of sex workers, particularly the connection, or lack of connection, with non-sexual jobs (squared work’, in the author’s lexicon), and the strategies they employ to keep sex work separate from the rest of their lives. In Bowen’s estimation, however, any political or policy interventions directed towards the gig economy, or the sex industry, should probably engage with insiders’ perspectives if they’re to promote safety and wellbeing and/or combat the myriad forms of exploitation prevalent within this social context. The book explores participant experiences of the ‘duality’ between sex work and day-to-day life and how the two worlds overlap, interact, and coincide with each other.  


Research conducted by Lepanjuuri (2018) suggests that around 1 in 6 UK adults, or roughly 7.25 million people, currently operate in what is termed as the “gig economy” where they work and trade on an entrepreneurial and task-by-task basis. In Bowen’s estimation, sex work, is a significant but probably under-researched aspect of the gig economy, even though no exact figure can be given due to its secretive nature.


The stigmatisation of sex workers, along with the prevalence of socioeconomic inequalities, remains a barrier to researching the industry, even though many now work online rather than soliciting customers on the street (p. 46). What more, Bowen argues, these disparities also affect the operational flow between sex and square work’. Additionally, the individual’s personal background and past experiences are also indicative of their strategies for separating, transitioning, and incorporating the two worlds, as well as their choice of location, transport, and tools to market themselves.  


Bowen allowed the contributors of this book to tell their story guided by semi-structured questions to be able to explore the research question “What is the nature of duality?” (p.28).  The interviews explored the challenge of juggling two identities transitioning between the two. In this context, Bowen turns to Goffman’s idea of ‘stigma’ to explore the adaptation of outward self in different contexts. The book rests on 36 interviews with sex workers, conducted over a two-year period with a view to exploring participants’ approaches to sex work and ‘square work’ along with the connections between them. Most of the participants operate in a highly entrepreneurial fashion, touting for business online and gathering customers through word of mouth, relying on their ‘soft skills’ to secure repeat business.  


In this way, they often claimed to use ‘square world’ skills of communication and time management to find their niche in the sex industry. One noted that "the skill of analysing data is surprisingly quite relevant to sex work" [p140]. The participants also claim that they do it for financial reasons like “economic security” [p9] and “get out of some debt” [p22]; and can make multiple times the money they earn from square work. Some also suggested that they moved into sex work because they were “disillusioned with past square work” [p22] and wanted to “work more therapeutically with people” [p22]. They also frequently compartmentalised the two worlds having "one room for [square] work and the other room is the [sex work] room" [p55]. 


Sex workers are publicly criminalised and classed as nuisances, and in some more derogatory terms – garbage. Their work is generally classed as deviant, if not criminal, with a range of short- and long-term consequences were their dual lives in the sex industry ever to come to light. For this reason, Bowen’s research design places a lot of emphasis on the safeguarding of participants, many of whom have a real and genuine fear of losing everything from social standing, trust, as well as their reputation. The very fact that the participants decided to share their experiences and stories with the author shows the degree of trust established between the two parties.   


With many people in the modern world, including the Gen-Z age, participating in side hustles to get ahead in life, the book represents a unique look at how the participants cope with this innate struggle. With many researchers suggesting that side hustles represent a sense of entrepreneurship, it is suggested that sex work benefits square work and vice versa. The benefit of reviewing this book by Bowen comes from the focal point of giving readers some high-quality information on the mechanics of Duality with a focus on sex work versus square work. Bowen’s work offers a deeply engaging insight into the experience of early 21st century gig economy sex workers and will help with a future study into researching how some college and university students are economically forced into all manner of side hustles to help fund their further education for a better future.   





Lepanjuuri, K., Wishart, R. and Cornick, P., (2018). The Characteristics of those in the Gig Economy [online]. London: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.   


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