Beyond the Gaze and Well Beyond Wolfenden: The Practices and Rationalities of Policing Sex Work in the Digital Age

Jane Scoular, Jane Pitcher, Teela Sanders, Rosemary Campbell, Stewart Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on the largest study of the United Kingdom online market in
sexual labour to date, this article examines the legal and regulatory
consequences as aspects of sex work increasingly take place within an
online environment. Our research shows that while governmental
policy has not kept abreast of these changes, the application of current
laws (which have, since the 1950s, focused on public nuisance and,
more recently, trafficking and modern slavery) are pernicious to sex
workers and unsuited to recognizing and responding to the abuses and
exploitation in online markets in sexual labour. These injustices are
likely to be exacerbated if policies and policing do not better align with
the realities of these markets in the twenty-first century. This demands
a more nuanced regulatory approach which recognizes that people
may engage in sex work of their own volition, but which also addresses
conditions of labour and criminal exploitation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-239
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Issue number2
Early online date20 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 May 2019

Bibliographical note



  • Sex work
  • Prostitution
  • Policing

Cite this