Ian Cook (Northumbria University) and Tom Baker (Auckland University), along with colleagues, have worked on research projects exploring the politics of sex work and the associated movement of ideas about sex work. See below for more details on these projects.

Project One: The spatial management of sex work – placing marginality through formal and informal practices

The spatial management of marginalised groups, particularly in urban settings, is a source of contentious debate among governments, businesses, civil society organisations, and members of the public. Through a focus on street-based sex work, this project examines the interrelated roles of formal and informal practices in the spatial management of socio-economic marginality. 

Project outputs:

Neuwelt-Kearns, C., Baker, T. and Calder-Dawe, O. (2020) Informal governance and the spatial management of street-based sex work in Aotearoa New Zealand. Political Geography, 79: 1-9. [pre-proof free version here, official free version here]

Project Two: The politics of John Schools and kerb crawling

The project focuses on the transnational growth of John Schools. Since emerging in North America in the 1980s, they have subsequently opened in South Korea and the United Kingdom. As this BBC clip of the John School in Brooklyn, New York City shows, these programmes are unique in that they teach clients the negative consequences of buying sex. The clip also reflects the wider transnational interest in John Schools, something that forms a central plank of this research. 

This research project concentrates on the emergence of John Schools in urban areas in the UK. In doing so, it focuses on:

  • the pedagogical strategies of John Schools;
  • the wider political contexts in which John Schools have emerged;
  • the ways in which the ideas around the programmes have moved between places and the mutations involved in the movement.
Project outputs:

Cook, I. R. (2015) Making links between sex work, gender and victimisation: The politics and pedagogies of John Schools. Gender, Place and Culture 22 (6): 817-832. [free version here, official version here

Cook, I. R. (2015) A vengeful education? Urban revanchism, sex work and the penal politics of John Schools. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 97 (1): 17-30. [free version here, official version here]

Laing, M. and Cook, I. R. (2014) Governing sex work in the city. Geography Compass 8 (8): 505-515. [free version here, official version here]

Project Three: The movement of the ‘Swedish model’ to Northern Ireland

The focus here is on the ways in which policies, ideas and models associated with sex work circulate internationally, using the example of the adoption and adaptation of what has become known as the ‘Swedish model’ in Northern Ireland. This is a collaboration between Laura McMenzieMary Laing and Ian Cook (all at Northumbria University). 

Project output:

McMenzie, L., Cook, I. R. and Laing, M. (2019) Criminological policy mobilities and sex work: Understanding the movement of the ‘Swedish model’ to Northern Ireland. The British Journal of Criminology, early online [free version here, official version here]

Project Four: Sex work researchers, activism and the impact agenda

Around the world, universities are focusing attention on how to catalyse and amplify social and economic impacts of academic research. Under the banner of an ‘impact agenda’ or the ‘third mission’ (alongside the traditional missions of research and teaching), academic researchers are increasingly expected to make impacts beyond their research disciplines and classrooms. Yet, having an impact beyond the university is no simple task. Despite the ubiquity of the ‘impactful academic’ as an idealised figure within universities, little is known about how academics understand, negotiate and practice being impactful. This project addresses this gap. It involves a comparative case study of Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) and United Kingdom (UK) based academics specialising in research on sex work regulation. Sex work academics are an ideal case study because they feature prominently in public and policy debates: they are evidently impactful. NZ and UK are useful comparative cases due to differences in university performance management regimes, population sizes and legality of sex work.