Sex workers may show extreme sensitivity to power relations during qualitative research due to the previous experiences of stigmatization and marginalization. The purpose of this article is to analyze how technologically mediated communication between researchers and participants during an interview may influence the scope of control exercised by the interactional partners. During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, I conducted 16 qualitative phone and videoconference interviews with female sex workers in Poland discussing the social stigmas they encounter. Each interview was followed up with extensive field notes that were analyzed using the procedures of grounded theory methodology. These very field notes serve as the basis for the paper herein. As a result of the analysis, I distinguished areas of power negotiated by the interviewer and interviewees in successive phases: before, during, and after the interview. The sense of control over the respective aspects of a study may contribute to the establishment of a more democratic power relationship between the researcher and the participants who belong to a population bearing a stigma.


researcher-participant power relation, videoconference interviews, Skype, qualitative methods, stigma

Author Bio(s)

Izabela Ślęzak, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Institute of Sociology, University of Lodz. Her main areas of interest are the sociology of sex work and the sociology of interaction. Please direct correspondence to izabela.slezak@uni.lodz.pl.


I would like to extend cordial thanks to the sex workers who participated in the study for sharing their stories with me. I would also like to express my appreciation for the invaluable linguistic assistance we received from our dedicated and unfailingly supportive colleague Dr. Katarzyna Kobos. I would also like to extend my thanks to TQR editors and anonymous reviewers for their kindness and valuable comments.

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