Postgraduate Christmas Conference, Criminal Justice Partnership Seminar Series – 7th December 13:00-16:00, UCLan MIS

Postgraduate Christmas Conference

7th December 13:00-16:00, Media Innovation Studio




Introduction and welcome 13:00-13:10
Presentation 1

Faye Christabel Speed – Online Grooming: An Exploration of the Genetic-Social Variables Which Enable Victimization.

Presentation 2

Natalie Harrison – The development and validation of the Experiences of Sibling Aggression (ESA) scale.

Presentation 3

Laura Robertson – A Whole System Approach to Youth Offending: Multi-agency Decision-making in Youth Justice

Break 14:25-14:40


Presentation 4

Flo SeymourHorticulture, hypermasculinity and mental wellbeing: the connections within a male prison context.

Presentation 5

Tasha Mokhtar – A practitioner perspective of why some young people reoffend while others desist from crime



Questions and discussion

Chaired by Prof. Stuart Kirby


Mince pies and mulled wine



All are welcome! Please email Emily Cooper or Jayn Pearson to register your attendance by 29th November so we can order catering.



Presentation 1                                                          

Online Grooming: An Exploration of the Genetic-Social Variables Which Enable Victimization.

Faye Christabel Speed (Masters by Research)

Within contemporary society, it is evident that cybercrime has progressively become an unavoidable danger. This risk is particularly alarming in relation to the vulnerable members of society where social networking sites have become tools to target, allure and infiltrate a child’s domain. My research analyses three distinct zones which enable and facilitate online grooming: paedophilic pathways, self-endorsed victimisation and societal failures. By focusing on these three distinct areas, I will be able to identify the specific facilitators of online grooming. Within ‘paedophilic pathways’, my objective is to commence a discussion as to why paedophiles are empowered through the online world. This will initially consider the difference between online and offline grooming, and will reflect on their merging.

Subsequently, within the ‘self-endorsed victimisation’ dimension, the researcher would like to analyse target stages of how and why adolescents capacitate victimisation and will consist of two strands. Firstly, the unconscious authorization, where the adolescent is mostly unaware of their predator prompting vulnerability and secondly, self-endorsed victimisation where the researcher will attempt to understand why teenagers purposely evoke vulnerability online.

Within the ‘societal failures’ dimension, the research will attempt to investigate what preventative measures are currently in place concerning family life, the education system and law enforcement, to suggest why they are ultimately failing. The overall aim of my research will be to deliberate a contingency plan, in order to advocate an individual and societal cut-off by categorising elements of risk detection, grooming obstruction and possible further paedophilic prohibition which the target could initiate.

The presentation will provide an executive overview of the research design and justification.


Presentation 2

The development and validation of the Experiences of Sibling Aggression (ESA) scale.

Natalie Harrison (Research Assistant in Policing and Mental Health)

Sibling aggression has been shown to occur at rates as high as 90% (Relva, Fernandes & Mota, 2013). However, the measures used to gather the prevalence data often look solely at the behavioural acts of aggression rather than the functions and motivations behind them. This means that play fighting, a developmentally beneficial behaviour for children (Flanders, Simard, Paquette, Parent, Vitaro, Phil & Seguin, 2010), is often neglected and unintentionally included in these statistics. This has the potential to inflate rates of sibling aggression, obscuring the true extent of the problem. The research aimed to develop a measure specifically for sibling aggression, that distinguished between the two behaviours. Two studies are reported here; (1) the exploration of this form of family violence from the viewpoint of those who identify themselves as a victim and/or perpetrator of sibling aggression and (2) the development and factor structure of the Experiences of Sibling Aggression (ESA) Scale.  The two studies identified that participants could distinguish between play fighting and sibling aggression, with a status of dominance and normalisation being important in these instances of aggression. These themes were tested to see whether they emerged in the ESA scale, revealing a four factor structure. Overall, the research demonstrates a need to consider play fighting in research on sibling aggression so that the true extent of the problem can be established.


Presentation 3

A Whole System Approach to Youth Offending: Multi-agency Decision-making in Youth Justice

Laura Robertson (PhD Candidate, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR), University of Glasgow)

This paper will be based on findings from a PhD study of the implementation of the Whole System Approach to Youth Offending in Scotland. The Whole System Approach is a Scottish youth justice policy for 8-18-year-olds based on inter-agency working; Early and Effective Intervention; Diversion from Prosecution; and, the provision of community alternatives to secure care and custody. A mixed methods approach to exploring the implementation of the WSA was adopted including semi-structured interviews with policy actors at a national level, interviews with a range of practitioners from criminal justice agencies in the local authority and documentary analysis of policy documents and guidance relating to youth justice. This paper will principally focus on policy actors’ and practitioners’ perspectives on Early and Effective Intervention and Diversion from Prosecution processes addressing how these processes are perceived to have been implemented and exploring the inter-agency decision-making processes they are underpinned by.


Presentation 4

Horticulture, hypermasculinity and mental wellbeing: the connections within a male prison context

Flo Seymour (PhD student, NIHR CLAHRC funded – School of Community Health and Midwifery)

Horticulture and the exposure to natural/green spaces has been widely accepted as having significant benefits upon a person’s mental health and wellbeing. Within the prison population, particularly amongst males, prevalence of mental illness, suicide and self-harm continue to rise and cause significant problems within prisons but also for prisoners on release.

Gardening projects in prison have nearly always existed but within the North West region, almost all prisons have a horticulture project called Greener on the Outside: For Prisons (GOOP); which aims to improve health and wellbeing, provide education in horticulture, maths and English, create a sociable, teamwork oriented environment, encourage health eating and physical activity and promote a rehabilitative culture.

Within all-male custodial settings, the issue of hypermasculine behaviours, such as aggression, violence and suppression of emotions has been reported as being significantly damaging to male prisoners’ mental health. The aim of this PhD research is to investigate whether GOOP can provide an alternative setting to improve mental wellbeing for male prisoners but also counteract and deter the potentially harmful masculine behaviours that are, evidently, a norm in most secure settings.

This presentation will focus on the themes of horticulture, mental wellbeing and male prisoners and hypermasculine behaviours as well as an overview of the first year of my PhD experience.


Presentation 5

A practitioner perspective of why some young people reoffend while others desist from crime

Natasha Mokhtar (PhD Student, Policing)

Records show that although less young people are reoffending, for those that do, their recidivism rate continues to rise. This suggests there are a significant group of persistent young offenders who are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime. Further, this problem is more acute in Lancashire which has a reoffending rate of 41.9% (national reoffending rate for young people in 2013/14 is 37.8%. Lancashire Youth Offending Team (LYOT) want to further understanding reoffending, methods to reduce it and the implications of this research on their practice.

The first phase of this research was a set of interviews with LYOT practitioners to gain a professional perspective to their challenges when dealing with young offenders. The interviews included staff from a range of disciplines: police, probation, social work, education and mental health. 17 interviews were conducted with staff in Preston, Burnley and Lancaster. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis and four main themes were identified: definition of desistance, reoffending knowledge, factors relating to onset, persistent and desistance and additional factors relating to reoffending. Multiple factors were associated with reoffending and desistance from crime Practitioners also spoke about the negative portrayal of young offenders in the media, the impact of custody, the role of victims, the influence of the system and about offences committed by young people. Practitioner opinions on reoffending are consistent with current literature in the area. The talk will outline the findings from the interviews, their relevance to the literature, and the next stages of the research.

Upcoming Talks

I’m really excited to be giving some talks about my PhD research and upcoming collaborative projects over the next few months. Here are the details:


Sensing the urban illicit: sex work, sensory urbanism and aesthetic criminology

Dr Emily Cooper, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)

Dr Ian R. Cook & Dr Charlotte Bilby (Northumbria University)

 30th November 2016, Geography department seminar series, Chester University (16 30-18.00 CBB012)


Historically, sex work has largely been constructed as a deviant and disorderly presence in the city.  Much of the research on sex work has therefore centred on its marginalisation to ‘dark corners’ (Hubbard 2004) of the city, and the multi-faceted stigmatisation that sex workers face.  However, as this presentation will argue, there is a need to consider other roles of the sex industry in everyday urban worlds; a need for exploration of its intersections with art, aesthetics and affect, rather than the purely legal or moral concerns which have dominated discussions to date (Agustin 2007).

Drawing on a case study on the impacts of brothels on residential communities in Blackpool (UK), this talk advocates that there is value in bringing together ideas from the urban studies literature on sensory urbanism with those from the visual criminology literature.  The presentation focuses on the physical appearance of the brothels and how they are perceived by members of the local community. Key aspects highlighted in resident narratives were the appearance and transparency of the windows and doors of the brothels, the visibility of their security measures, and the role of colour and light in their appearance. The case study demonstrates that, in order to holistically understand illicit places in the city – and the multiple roles they play in everyday urban worlds – it is vital to relate the visual to other senses; and, furthermore, to capture the relationship between the senses and emotion.


Sex Work in the Community: A Study of Blackpool’s Brothels

Dr Emily Cooper, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)

7pm, 8th December 2016, Blackpool Speakeasy Talk, Raikes Hall Pub, Blackpool

See @bplspkesy and for more details of events



Sex work, in all its forms, is generally considered to be a problematic feature of urban areas.  Such perceptions include associations with dirt and disorder, questions about sexual morality and the reputation of the surrounding areas, and fears concerning trafficking and other crime.  However, robust and inclusive consultations with residential communities about the real (as opposed to perceived) effects of sex work remain limited.

This talk will therefore shed some light on this under-researched area, discussing the findings from a doctoral research project (conducted between 2011-2013) on the effects of brothels in Blackpool on the surrounding residential communities.  Drawing from observations, and interviews with local residents, police officers, Blackpool Council, and sex workers, the talk will provide an insight into how brothels in Blackpool are managed by local authorities and present their very complex role in the everyday lives of their neighbours.  Contrary to the assumption that crime and disorder are the only aspects that brothels bring to residential areas, the brothels and sex workers have many roles in Blackpool’s community life.  These include economic contributions, heightening feelings of safety and community spirit, social entertainment, and, quite simply, just being other ‘ordinary neighbours’.


On-street, Off-street, And Online: The Dynamic Liminalities Of Sex Work

Assoc. Prof. Paul Maginn (UWA) and Dr Emily Cooper (UCLan)

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting 2017, 5-10 April 2017, Boston (USA), #Geosex17

Sex work has long been the subject of labelling/stigma with sex workers being the subjects of moral authority.  Relatedly, the physical spaces in which sex work is produced/consumed have been subject to ‘territorial stigmatization’ (Wacquant, 2007). That is, commercial sex spaces have been marginalised – physically, socially and economically – by framing them, and those that occupy them, as abnormal, immoral, deviant, dirty, disorderly, and dangerous.  Sex work spaces are thus constructed as major ‘blemishes’ on the urban landscape and the very fabric of society. Simultaneously, however, sex spaces constitute ‘counter-spaces’ where ‘sexual boundary crossers (Hausbeck Korgan, 2016) can engage in transgressive behaviours and express their minority sexual identity status.  Sex work spaces are also liminal in that they are often caught between the grey space of legality and illegality; ‘a space between sex and work whilst also being neither/both’ (Smith, 2015); a space that can be simultaneously physical and virtual; a space where different personas can be portrayed; and, a space where fantasy meets reality. This exploratory, conceptual paper considers the key liminal characteristics across three distinct spaces where sex work is produced/consumed: (i) the street; (ii) indoor spaces (e.g. brothels, hotels); and (iii) virtual spaces (e.g. online escorting; social media and camming).  It is argued that the moral posturing, stigma and regulations imposed upon sex workers gives rise to the exercise of ‘liminal stigmatisation’. Simultaneously, however, the very liminality of sex work spaces, especially virtual ones, allows sex workers to mobilise and challenge this liminal stigma.




UCLan Postgraduate Criminal Justice Seminar Series


Calling all postgraduate students!

Beginning in the academic year 2016-2017, the Criminal Justice Partnership are starting a postgraduate criminal justice seminar series.  These events will provide a great opportunity for doctoral students to present their research in an informal setting to a varied audience (including School postgraduate students/colleagues, the wider University community and external guests) while also acting as a socialising and networking space.  The series is open to ALL students conducting research on, or of interest to, criminal justice, criminology and policing. The presentation formats and topics will vary and speakers are free to present at all stages of their research, covering any element of their research interests.  Suggestions for external speakers are always welcome and a timetable of events for the upcoming year will be produced.  Below are the details for event one:

Postgraduate Christmas Conference, Wednesday 7th December 1-4 p.m.


Are you currently doing a PhD or Masters dissertation on topics within Criminal Justice, Criminology or Policing? Fancy an opportunity to present about your research, gain some valuable feedback, and network? Submit an abstract to the Postgraduate Christmas Conference!

Presentations will be 15 minutes long.  We will be joined by Prof. Stuart Kirby to do a closing chair discussion, and there will be opportunities to ask questions of your peers and share tales about the research process.

The event will be accompanied by mulled wine and appropriately-Christmassy cakes/nibbles, and we will head for a meal (optional) in the city after the event.  Students at ALL stages of their research are welcome to submit an abstract and the event is open to all.

Please submit an abstract (250 words maximum) to Emily Cooper ( by Friday 11th November 2016

CFP #AAG2017 – (De)Stigmatising Sexscapes: Politics, Policy and Performance

Call for Papers for the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting (#AAG2017)

Boston, USA, 5-10 April 2017


Image taken from:


(De)Stigmatising Sexscapes: Politics, Policy and Performance (#Geosex17)

The socio-spatial, cultural and legal contours that surround sex, sexualities and sex work have long interested geographers, sociologists and criminologists.  Similarly, stigmatisation and social exclusion of marginalised sexual communities and sexual dissidents have also been at the forefront of academic thought, alongside how varying regulatory approaches contribute to perpetuating or diluting such effects on these communities.

In simple binary terms, political and policy attitudes towards commercial sex premises (e.g. sex shops, strip clubs, brothels) and sexual dissidents (e.g. sex workers, porn performers, LGBTI communities, consumers of commodified/commercialised forms of sex) veer between the (i) pragmatic and progressive and (ii) regressive and punitive.  Recent changes to sex work regulation, for example, have included: (i) the introduction of the ‘Nordic regime’ in France and Northern Ireland; (ii) the establishment of mandatory health counselling prior to and as a condition for registration for sex workers in Germany; and (iii) the introduction of Human Trafficking Intervention Courts (HTICs) in the State of New York. In the US, where sex work remains criminalised (except in parts of Nevada), federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have been at the forefront of a series of ‘sting operations’ on street-based sex workers and the closure of online escort agencies often on the premise of tackling human trafficking and money laundering. In 2016 the international human rights group, Amnesty International, confirmed its support for the decriminalisation of sex work, joining a host of other international organisations who support this policy stance. Interestingly, the policy agenda on sex work in the UK took an unexpected turn recently when the Home Affairs Committee on Prostitution indicated that a more pragmatic regulatory approach to sex work was required.

Pornography has also witnessed shifting socio-legal landscapes, with governments calling for and/or enacting varying forms of internet filtering and censorship of certain sexual acts (e.g face-sitting and female ejaculation).  Such moves have been argued to be highly gender biased. These are paralleled by other regulatory changes (e.g. mandatory condom use for adult performers) being introduced/advocated, but vehemently opposed within the adult performer community in the USA.  The state government in Utah recently declared that pornography was a public health hazard and consumption was at epidemic levels. Annual data from Pornhub, one of the world’s largest providers of online pornography, does indeed show that there is global mass consumption of porn. However, systematic research on the supposed deleterious effects of porn consumption remain seriously underdeveloped.

Relatedly, the ways in which sex, sexualities and sex work are performed, produced and consumed have also experienced changes in recent years, largely due to advances in mobile technology and the Internet. This raises interesting questions about the nature and dynamism within different sexscapes: (i) at a variety of scales, from the body and digital avatars to commercial sex work premises (e.g. pornography studios, brothels, camming spaces, BDSM venues, and the street); (ii) the wellbeing and safety of sex workers; and, (iii) the nature of community and mobility within and across different sectors of the sex industry.  Such shifts in technological advances have paved new ways and created new spaces for sexual dissidents engaged in consensual commercial forms of sex to communicate, mobilise and, ultimately, oppose stigmatisation and challenge policy and legislation.

This special session therefore seeks papers that focus on the broad themes of politics, policy and performance in/of sex, sexualities and sex work/the sex industry and how the concepts of labelling, stigmatisation and stereotyping are operationalised/resisted from above and below.  Papers can be theoretical, methodological and/or empirical and should speak to, but are by no means limited to, the following broad topics:

  • The social/economic/cultural geographies of adult retailing, queerness, sex work and pornography;
  • Stigma and social exclusion of/within sex work and the sex industry;
  • Liminal spaces and liminal stigmatisation of sexuality, sex work and the sex industry;
  • Community, diversity and mobility within sex work;
  • Kink/fetish spaces/communities involving bondage and discipline (BD), dominance and submission (DS), sadism and masochism (SM) (BDSM);
  • Performing sex work/sex worker identities via professional and/or protest/advocacy spaces;
  • Peer-education and advocacy within sex worker communities;
  • Sex, sexuality, sex work and disabilities;
  • Customers/clients and the sex industry;
  • Policing and criminal justice approaches to regulating the sex industry; and
  • Sex trafficking/exploitation and consensual commercial sex.

We welcome abstracts/papers by scholars, sex worker-academics, research-minded sex workers/sex work activists, adult entertainment performers/activists, and government/policy researchers from all theoretical, ideological, political, methodological, and empirical standpoints.

Please send your abstract (max 250 words) including title, 5 key words, author(s), institutional affiliation and contact details (including email) to the session convenors by no later than 14th October 2016.

Details about the AAG 2017 Conference and how to register/submit an abstract are available here –


Session Convenors:

Assoc. Prof. Paul J. Maginn, University of Western Australia, (@planographer)

Dr. Emily Cooper, University of Central Lancashire, (@liminographer)

Dr. Erin Sanders-Mcdonagh, University of Kent,  (@erinsandersmcd)

Call for Interest: UCLan Collective Writing Events



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Calling all PhD students and early career researchers/lecturers!  Fancy taking part in some collective writing activities?  Are you wanting to finally finish *that* PhD chapter, get an article sent off, work on a job application, finish preparing a seminar presentation – or simply fancy sharing tips, successes or woes with peers?

My name is Emily and I am a recently appointed Lecturer in Human Geography at UCLan.  As a part-time PhD student (and now as an early career lecturer) I found collective writing days/retreats really therapeutic and productive, and they were very popular at my previous institutions.  These events can take several forms, with the main ones being:

  • Short ‘#shutupandwrite’ sessions (ranging from an hour, to a full morning or afternoon) involving blocks of quiet writing, with scheduled breaks for refreshments and sharing progress (check out @suwtuk, #acwri, #suwt and #diysuwt for where the idea came from, Twitter users!)
  • Writing retreats, with an ‘away day’ feel,  so a close-by external venue will be booked (likely a full day, or multiple days – perfect for summer!)
  • Seminar-based activities, where somebody shares a piece of work they are currently amending (or have a finished draft of) for constructive and supportive feedback from the group.  This has proven invaluable for me in the past – my first publication definitely wouldn’t have got through the review process so quickly without one of these sessions, and I got some really helpful job advice on another occasion too
  • There is also a possibility, should this be something that takes off well here, of starting an early career/phd student seminar series for presentations on research and general tips on early career academic life.  But I’ll see what happens.

All of the above usually involve cake, caffeine, possibly alcohol, and potentially all of these, during and after the events.  All are welcome!

We have an email list going of everybody interested in being kept in the loop about events such as the above.  So, the first thing to do is to let me know if you want to be added to the list!  Please include your email address, department/school and job title/student status.   You can also join the Facebook group:  Any volunteers for co-running the more comprehensive sessions would also be greatly appreciated.  We meet around once per month, but sometimes more!

Feel free to contact me and get a bit more information about the above before committing to the email list if you would like to.  You can also contact me more informally via my Twitter account (apologies in advance for all of the cat tweets…) @liminographer.  Even if you don’t want to participate in the above, but fancy meeting up for a coffee or a drink with a fellow ECR, then please do get in touch!

Happy writing!


Sex in the City: Reactionism, Resistance and Revolt – AAG #Geosex16 sessions in San Francisco (March/April 2016) **POST 5/5 – SESSION V**

V – Spaces of Empowerment and Social Inclusion

Paul J. Maginn (@planographer) (University of Western Australia) and Alistair Sisson (@alistairsisson) University of Sydney): “‘Orgasmic Geographies’: The Socio-spatial Distribution and Cultural Significance of Sex Toys in Australia

Paul’s paper centred on adult retailing in Australia – he began by outlining how adult retailing in Australia has come a long way since the first sex shops (opening in the early 1970s), where mainly pornographic material was sold (Sullivan, 1997). He explained that the number of sex shops has proliferated and the range of shops have diversified with 3 broad types of physical stores now identifiable – ‘seedy and sleazy’; ‘corporate chain stores’; and ‘erotic boutiques’ – that cater to particular client bases (Maginn and Steinmetz, 2014). Paul’s research – conducted with Alistair Sisson (University of Sydney) – focuses on “historical sales data from two online retailers, one Australian and one international, and uses GIS to map the socio-spatial distribution of sex toys and other related adult products across Australia at different spatial scal”es. More specifically, their research examines the “gendered, political and socio-economic aspects of the sale of adult products” to ascertain just how socio-spatially and -culturally mainstream sex toys have become in 21st century Australia.


Paul then briefly outlined the conceptual framework for the research. He discussed how the emergence of feminist adult literature, sex toy businesses (see Prof. Lynn Comella’s work) and ‘stylised pleasure’ has “situated sex shops as sites of cultural production AND retail production; thus perpetuating changing cultural norms around adult retailing and pleasure”.  Paul discussed the paralleled changing aesthetics of adult retail stores, “promoting style” as opposed to just phallocentric aesthetics, and becoming more ‘vanilla’ (drawing on Prof. Clarissa Smith’s work).  Paul dubbed this a “depornification process”, removing the notion of seediness and sleaziness and promoting the “commodification of pleasure” – he outlined how sex shops have capitalised on wider cultural sexuality eg the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon.  He commented on the ways in which the FSOG phenomenon has, regardless of the attitude towards the quality of the book itself, had a marked impact on the demand for the accompanying adult retail market.

Paul then went on to discuss the range in products available – ranging from basic, entry level to luxury goods, e.g. a gold vibrator selling for £10000 (which he dubbed as more collector’s items)!  He outlined the 3-pronged sex shop typology in more detail, and then discussed the Perth context.  Paul explained that there are not many small, boutique stores in Perth but these are beginning to emerge across Australia more broadly.

Some findings (**I was chairing this session so didn’t get many results down in detail**): in relation to the socio-spatial distribution of sales, Paul explained that they currently had 2 years’ worth of data but that this does not provide information on who the customers are.  He outlined that there were high levels of sales in Perth and Sydney (with plenty of sex shops in Sydney). NSW is the most populous state but had fairly small sales numbers as a whole.  He explained that therefore sales analysis should be studied at more of a regional scale, with the micro-geographies of sales being particularly interesting. Paul also explained that, so far, it is suggested that political voting makes no difference to sales.

Paul finished the talk by stating that sex toys have gone through a staged evolution: ‘from marital aid, to sex toy/pleasure, to a collector’s item’.  The changing nature of shop/website aesthetics and the dilution of phallic display ‘raises interesting questions about who-should-see-what in sex shop windows’.


Lesley Gabriel (@muckybooksblog) (Birmingham City University): “50 Shades of Suburbia: The BDSM Scene in Birmingham, UK”.

Lesley’s paper described the ongoing research for her PhD into the BDSM scene in Birmingham, UK.   Although in the early stages of her PhD, Lesley explained that it is likely her research will take the form of an ethno-history, with interviews conducted with participants from the Birmingham BDSM scene.  These participants, she stated, will range from those who first established the Birmingham Bizarre Bazar (BBB – a monthly fetish market and after party), right through to newer members of the community who may have been led there by the claim on the BBB’s website: “If you liked 50 Shades, you’ll love the BBB!”  The Birmingham scene revolves around the Birmingham Bizarre Bazar (or BBB) which attracts a wide range of attendees from across the UK and Europe.  She also stated that the project will also provide a “thorough discussion of how the internet has changed the scene by enabling better communication as well as education and kink-related commerce”.

Lesley outlined the justification for her PhD project in the presentation.  She began by stating that BDSM is a blended acronym and a colloquial term for kink, and providing some context on the study site.  Birmingham, she explained, is the “birthplace of the industrial revolution and a rock capital, with a large-yet-currently-undocumented BDSM scene”.  She said that while there is a concentration in the literature on global hubs for BDSM activity such as San Francisco or London, nothing has been published about the UK’s second city – despite the scene being a large and cohesive one.

Through an ethno-history approach inspired by Kuhn (2002), Lesley is interested in “what participants in the scene do, how they identify themselves and the words they use to describe what it is they do/are”.  She outlined how, regardless of what one thinks of the 50 Shades of Grey books, it is difficult to ignore their popularity and influence over the BDSM scene, including bringing issues of consent to the discussion.  Lesley outlined how recent research has shown that, despite some from the BDSM scene wanting to project it from people from the FSOG movement, one of the opinions is that ‘if you are going to come to the scene because of FSOG, then learn something about it’. Lesley finished by stating that coming to the AAG2016 had been “instrumental in learning the role of sex workers in the BDSM community” – and that she would like to include such voices in her research.


Susan Buckingham, Prof and Monica Degen, Dr (Brunel University London): “Transformational space and gendered and sexed identities” **I didn’t take any useful notes during this presentation – chairing commitments made these difficult to decipher!**

Abstract: The proposed paper examines the potential of space to be transformational for a group of vulnerable women for whom their identity is more than usually closely tied to their sexed and gendered bodies. Our discussion emerges from a research project which explored yoga as a research methodology (Buckingham and Degen, 2012), and research in progress on sex workers’ identity with different spaces. Through these projects, it is becoming clear that how the women felt, identified and behaved was powerfully shaped by the spaces they inhabited (Tuan 1977). From the domestic space of the women’s centre in East London in which the participants accessed facilities and services, through their local regenerated neighbourhood, and distant places to which they were introduced, we discuss how three particular places enabled these women, otherwise stigmatized as marginal through being ‘homeless’, ‘substance abusing’, and/or prostitutes in their habitual spaces, to produce an alternative re-formulation of their self-identities (Keith & Pile 1993; Knowles & Alexander 2005).  Employing an ethnographic approach, the paper considers how a high specification architect designed support centre, third sector spaces, and a coastal holiday location each offered such vulnerable women spaces in which they could expand the boundaries of their profoundly gendered and sexed identities. Finally, we consider what the broader implications of our findings are for theorizing a ‘politics of difference’ for vulnerable groups in contemporary neo-liberal cities (Young 1990).



Christina Bazzaroni (PhD Candidate – Florida International University): “Sex Positive Culture Creation: Kinky Salon and the Sex Culture Revolution

Christina’s paper discussed her PhD research on Kinky Salon, which she outlined is an “arty, sexy party” providing an alternative space for sexual exploration to typical sex clubs that are “often impersonal and intimidating”. Christina outlined that these events happen in 12 cities around the world, reproduced in the same way across space, and that “each party has a theme and dress code to foster community and fun”.  She stated that Kinky Salon positions itself as a global sex positive community (with a strong complementary online community) that aims to “facilitate cultural and political change by adopting strategies and ideologies of co-creation and cultural revolution”. The events, Jennifer argues, cultivate a sex-positive community organized largely around individuals that are “participation and activism oriented”, politically aware, ethical actors. Furthermore, she says, the KS community of participants and volunteers often develop lifestyles that “embrace various configurations of ethical non-monogamy”.  Its core values are: “playful, safe, inclusive, creative, community spirited, socially conscious, and sexually progressive”.

Some key questions in Christina’s PhD research include: What is it to be sex positive (e.g. the type(s) of freedom it relates to)? What is sex positive culture/community? What is the sex culture revolution? She contextualised these questions initially by discussing that the sex and sexualities field is moving away from centring on LGBT enclaves alone, and focusing on ordinary cities as well as global tourist centres (drawing on Phil Hubbard’s work).  She argued that the field is now wanting to ask more questions about “how alternative sex communities garner more positive sexually expressive spaces” – and alternative partnering strategies such as polyamory and ethical, consensual non monogamy – drawing from feminist geography literature.

Jennifer outlined that a central feature of KS is the idea of sex positivity – and serves to challengeconventional negative norms around sex, and shame around bodies”.  Jennifer outlined how the AIDS crisis of 1980s created fear around sex, and that “KS, as part of the new generation, has grown divorced from tragedies from past generations”.  She outlined the centrality of issues such as consent to the culture, and that the events have a clear charter outlining the norms/orders of the venues.  Jennifer explained that often the individuals involved are politically aware and have an action-based political agenda: “wanting individuals to enter the door, change their lives and re-enter society”. 

The paper concluded by asking questions regarding how these sort of events/venues could reach out to other people, and asked for suggestions from conference attendees.  Jennifer also outlined that there is still a way to go with mainstreaming BDSM sexual expression.


Final note:

Paul, Clarissa, Martin and I are exploring publication options for the papers from our sessions and so further details will hopefully be available soon.  (Particularly if you have stuck with me for all 5 posts), thanks very much for reading and I hope all of my post-conference ramblings made sense!



Sex in the City: Reactionism, Resistance and Revolt – AAG #Geosex16 sessions in San Francisco (March/April 2016) **POST 4/5 – SESSION IV**

IV – Navigating Risk and Violence


Joanne Bowring (@jojobo77) (Liverpool John Moores University): “An exploration of the experiences of those working in the UK adult film industry.

Jo’s paper centred on her PhD research into the experiences of those working in the UK adult film industry.  She began by outlining that, despite the debate around the supposed harms of pornography, for viewers, society and performers being very intense, little research has been conducted regarding the experiences of the UK adult film workforce. Jo outlined that Pornhub has around 1.68 million visits every hour, and that in 2007, there were 13,000 adult films made in the US alone – with the International Adult Film Database including over 100,000 performers.  The British Girls Adult Film database has over 2000 female performers registered.

Jo then discussed the UK context – it was outlined that while most production is legal, recent legislation (e.g. Audio-Visual Media Services Regulation, 2014) prevents certain acts from being produced.  Examples include female ejaculation and spanking if more than just titillation; legislation which Jo argued is sexist, due to the policing of female pleasure in such production.  Most porn research, Jo outlined, is also based on the “potential for harm – for viewers, women and society” and does not centre the performer voice. Jo ‘s research, she stated, is pro-performer voice, and comes from the position that it should not be censored on moral objections/nuclear family ideals.  She also outlined how porn is not a homogeneous lump of material; it is hugely varied in content and in production, ranging from sole traders to massive organisations.

Jo discussed some of the difficulties she has faced so far in the research process – including being “labelled pro-porn and part of the pimp lobby just by speaking to sex workers for the project”.  She also outlined that previous research has highlighted that when the general public think about the porn industry, the damaged goods hypothesis (Griffiths et al 2013) is a prominent theme – the assumption that everyone has been abused as a child, with some other features on HIV cases in the US.  As a result, she argued that research requires much more of a comprehensive focus on the risks and opportunities presented by the industry with a more open lens (rather than assuming victimhood, harm, and assumptions about characteristics/experiences of workers) She also outlined that it is timely to explore the implications of the audio-visual media regulations on performers, and to try and navigate ways to challenge stigma and include more of a diverse performer voice in debate and policy decisions.

Although in the early stages, Jo mentioned that the level of interest has been good and I look forward to seeing what her findings are.


Jill McCracken, PhD (University of South Florida St. Petersburg): “To Name is to Resist: Bridging Reactionism to Decrease Violence in the Sex Industry” **I didn’t take many notes during this presentation, as it was largely very interactive**

Abstract: “This presentation explores relationships between the discursive and material violence that occurs against individuals in the sex industry. The discourse surrounding sex work and trafficking in the sex industry–the terminology, images, descriptions, and definitions–are fraught with difficulty and complexity.  Because they center on topics about which many hold strong beliefs, the language, labeling and perspectives lend themselves easily to reactivity, which both creates and inhibits resistance. Rhetorical, semantic, and ideological warfare then ensues and often the underlying issues–violence in this case–are moved to the sidelines. My findings document 1) how violence occurs within categories and definitions when words and images are used to achieve specific goals, based on contradictory moral frameworks and values often labeled as conservative, progressive, sex positive, and radical, among others; 2) the bridges that exist between these polarized stances that can provide a foundation for shared goals and outcomes, and 3) how these articulations can contribute to decreasing the material violence that is used against so many individuals within the sex industry. Using rhetorical and ideological analysis of the themes that emerge from legal, media, and academic discourses about sex work and trafficking in the sex industry, I present the central ideas as well as the underlying values and ideologies that inform these themes and perspectives. Examining the language and belief systems that inform these arguments reveal overlapping values and connections that can be the foundation for building and achieving common goals”.

Jill showed the audience some videos about trafficking which we discussed as an audience.  Questions raised included: “what is the goal of such videos, what did we see, who gets to speak, and what are the main messages?”

Some offerings from the audience were: the key message from the imagery is to “put your clothes back on” (prostitution), “give us (those making the video) money/donate”, “jazzy infomercial style”, “having a goal of salvation”, “do the messages curb or create violence”? 


Jennifer McGibbon (@jennyMcG) (University of Georgia): “Anti-Trafficking and the Hyper-Criminalization of Sex Workers

Jennifer’s paper focused on the anti-trafficking movement and its ‘hyper-criminalisation’ of sex workers.  She began by outlining the issues with recent legislation, including (as examples) the ‘anyone who benefits from sex work-related income’ that features in many policies, resulting in spouses, roommates, consenting escorts and drivers etc to be implicated.  The ‘criminalisation of human contact’, as dubbed by Jennifer, means that in writing strip clubs are therefore illegal and this sort of problematic system results in the ‘burden of demonstrating coercion involved in the transactions being removed’.

Jennifer outlined how, in 2014, the Oakland nuisance eviction ordinance was put in place which required landlords to evict suspected prostitutes (and they can be fined by the city if they fail to evict).  This garnered media coverage and opposition from tenant’s rights/sex worker groups.  Similary, the 2013 formation of New York’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts (HTIC’s) also contributed to the hyper-criminalisation of sex workers, with as the Red Umbrella describe as the ‘feminised version of stop and frisk” and Jennifer outlined that such strategies ‘disproportionately  target women of colour/trans/poor women as ‘prostitutes’ – “because they look like one” and leave them in legal limbo.’  Jennifer outlined that sex workers can also be rearrested for returning to the area they were arrested in and this therefore creates ‘de facto prostitution free zones’.

Jennifer argues that such anti-trafficking movements and their subsequent regulations act as tools of gentrification, strengthen the illegal sex trade and increase trafficking – while also giving policing power to citizens.  She outlined how sex worker populations are often already living in situations of precarity and the identification of ‘the trafficker’ in new legal situations where the trafficker doesn’t even need to be a 3rd party (consenting adult sex workers can be charged for trafficking themselves) is now very muddy – creating further uncertainty.  She argued that violence is not an inherent part of the sex industry but inherent to capitalism, whereby sex workers are forced to choose between a job that doesn’t provide a living wage, or a job that sells sex which they may not want to do – and that ‘we have to tackle capitalism more broadly to tackle the real issues’.  She also argued how important it is that society “re-imagines sex workers as complex, multi-faceted human beings, capable of consent and making logical decisions” – the anti-trafficking discourse, she states, makes it impossible for sex workers to be seen as able to say no or yes to sex, “which is very disabling”.  She argued that the moral panic that anti-trafficking law engenders needs to be addressed – and that “it is important for survival sex workers to be central to legislation which disproportionately impacts them” and to resist the hyper-criminalisation of the sex industry.

A final note from Jennifer’s abstract: “My work constitutes a meaningful intervention into the anti-trafficking narrative by questioning and re-evaluating the goals and methods of racialized, gendered “rescue” and the efforts by the anti-trafficking movement to eradicate the sex industry entirely. The objective of my research is to understand how the anti-trafficking movement has shaped this atmosphere of hyper-criminalization and what forms of resistance are most effective in fighting criminalization”.