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Lecture 15

JOUR 205 Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: Melissa Farley, Ponzo Illusion, Ronald Weitzer

Course Code
JOUR 205
Marcel Danis

of 4
Sabrina Ponzo
Assignment 3
Weitzer (2005) examines three particular articles that are guilty of methodological flaws in his article.
Specifically, he shows how the articles in question by Jody Raphael and Deborah Shapiro (2004),
Melissa Farley (2004), and Janice Raymond (2004), all contain flaws in their conclusive studies on
prostitution. This response will identify two main flaws exemplified in the studies examined by
Weitzer as well as include suggestions on how to avoid the mentioned methodological faults.
To begin, Weitzer highlights how studies of prostitution can contain the unrepresentative sample
methodological flaw. Weitzer (2005) states that “too often the findings and conclusions drawn from
convenience and snowball samples are not properly qualified as nongeneralizable” (p.938). The
representative sample challenge basically involves drawing conclusions from a sample that justifiably
represents the make-up of various groups and sub-groups involved, in this case, in the sex industry.
An example of the previous flaw is shown in the Weitzer (2005) article. In it, he shows how a study
by Raphael and Shapiro (2004) involving “survivors of prostitution” gave little information about
how the respondents were located (Weitzer, 2005, p.939). Weitzer (2005) highlights how “no attempt
was made to sample the broadest range of workers possible [and] the sample was heavily skewed” by
like-minded respondents and interviewers (p. 939).
A suggestion on how to avoid the unrepresentative sample methodological flaw in prostitution
studies, as suggested by Shaver (2005), is to include participants with different characteristics and
experiences and represent each sector in the sex industry. Shaver (2005) uses this suggestion in her
sample studies by “continuously expanding them to encompass participants with different
characteristics and experiences until saturation had been reached” and “[seeks] to ensure that results
were representative of each sector and not merely idiosyncratic of single individuals or settings”
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(p.305). The previous techniques allow studies to preserve representativeness and avoid
methodological flaws.
A second methodological flaw mentioned in the Weitzer (2005) reading is failing to reflect diversity
in prostitution studies. As mentioned in class lecture notes, “sex workers are often represented as an
homogeneous population” (Lesson 5, p. 14). The reflecting diversity challenge involves recognizing
the different sectors, groups, and types of work within the sex industry when conducting studies.
Examples of this flaw being used in prostitution studies can be first seen in Raymond’s (2004) article
as discussed by Weitzer (2005). In this study, the readers were told minimal information about the 186
female victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking that were interviewed (Weitzer, 2005, p. 940). As
mentioned by Weitzer (2005), “no information on where [Raymond] located the women, how she
gained access to them, [or] how diverse or representative they are” were revealed to the reader (p.
Another example of the reflecting diversity methodological flaw is discussed by Weitzer (2005) while
examining a study by Farley and Barkan (1998). In this study, Farley and Barkan (1998) interviewed
prostitutes in San Francisco who were street-based. Weitzer (2005) explains how “no indication [was]
given of the breadth or diversity of their sample, or the method of approaching people on the street”
(p. 941). A similar study involving Farley e. al (1998) conducted interviews with workers in several
countries. Weitzer (2005) points out how “no information [was] provided as to how these locations
were selected, or whether alternative locations were rejected for some reason” (p. 941). All of the
previous examples show how the challenge of reflecting diversity can negatively impact prostitution
studies and their conclusions.
A suggestion to help overcome the methodological flaw of failing to reflect diversity in prostitution
studies, as suggested in class lecture notes, is to build in strategic comparisons (Lesson 5, p.15). As
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Cecilia Benoit states in her video shown in lesson 5 lecture notes, “methodologically, it is very
difficult to design a project that [will] deliver diversity in your participants” (p. 16). In the video,
Benoit suggests working with multiple community partners and developing a respondent-driven
sampling technique to help bring a variety of participants when conducting prostitution studies
(Lesson 5, p. 16). This will, in turn, allow the makers of the study to avoid the methodological flaw in
failing to reflect diversity and will enable strategic comparisons within the study.
To conclude, as stated by Weitzer (2005), it is “difficult to conduct research on individuals who are
stigmatized and involved in illegal behavior” (p. 941). However, using the suggestions mentioned in
this response as well as other expert suggestions can help ameliorate and validate future studies on
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