Sex and the City

How do urban planners regulate the sex industries in our cities?

The sex industries – from sex work to porn production – are often perceived and therefore regulated as unsuitable businesses for the high streets and residential neighbourhoods of cities. We talk with Associate Professor Paul Maginn about the role the planning system plays in regulating urban sex-scapes, the conservative morality of regulating the sex industries in cities and the perverse urban outcomes when both collide. Paul argues we need to take the sex-scapes of our cities seriously.

“So people say, ‘so what do you do?’ I say, oh, I study aspects of the sex industry!”

Associate Professor Paul Maginn

In his edited book, (Sub)Urban Sexscapes, Paul and his co-authors discuss the regulation of the commercial sex industry.(Sub)urban Sexscapes highlights the mainstreaming of commercial sex premises (e.g., sex shops, brothels, strip clubs and queer spaces) and products (e.g., sex toys, erotic literature and pornography); both which are now commonplace in night time economy spaces, the high street, suburban shopping centres and the home. They argue the aesthetics of commercial and alternative sexual practices (e.g., BDSM and pornography) permeate the (sub)urban landscape.

“I’m interested in the production, regulation and consumption of the sex industries; and that ranges from everything from adult stores through to online pornography”.

Associate Professor Paul Maginn      

We talk to Paul about the role of sex, sexuality and commercialised sex in contributing to the general character of our cities. We cover morality and planning rules, and Paul argues policy-makers need to be realistic about presence of the sex industry.


Associate Professor Paul Maginn is Programme Co-ordinator of the Masters in Urban and Regional Planning at The University of Western Australia. He is the co-editor/contributor of (Sub)Urban Sexscapes: Geographies and Regulation of the Sex Industry which won the 2016 Planning Institute of Australia (National) Award for Cutting Edge Research and Teaching. His research on the sex industry has examined male sex work in Ireland/Northern Ireland, the suburbanisation of adult retailing, and, most recently he has been analysing online porn consumption in Australia, the gender attitudes of male porn consumers, and porn expos as a form of sexualised leisure. You can find Paul’s podcast – Suburbanista Podcast – on soundcloud, and him on Twitter at @Planographer and @SuburbanistaPod.

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