Soho's 'unique' sexual character should be preserved, say researchers
The unique, cosmopolitan sexual character of London's Soho should be preserved in the face of gentrification, a new study argues.
The research, by academics at the universities of Kent and Middlesex, highlights that Soho has long been recognised for its support of a diverse range of sexual citizens – including LGBTQ and the kink communities – but that this is threatened by a London-wide process of 'sanitization'.
They argue that, although the area continues to be associated with 'non-conformity and deviance', the geography of sex shops in Soho has been altered by licensing strategies and more recently by gentrification and corporatisation.
Using the example of two sex shops that cater for a diverse clientele, the researchers illustrate how Soho is important in the way it continues to 'create a space' for 'sexual others' that might normally be 'marginalized or pushed to the periphery'.
The study points out that, following the Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1982, the number of sex shops in the area declined from more than 50 to a total of 12 licenced shops now.
But it notes that there is still a high concentration of sexual retailing, with most of the sexual commerce located in the north and eastern quarters of the area; this means that almost all of the sex shops, erotic boutiques and strip clubs are located within half a mile of one another.
This dense concentration sits in contrast to other parts of the UK, the researchers point out, where much of the licencing legislation and moral concerns about respectability has relegated sex shops to peripheral locations far away from main shopping areas.
Researcher Dr Erin Sanders-McDonagh, of Kent's School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, argues that it is the 'transgressive nature' of Soho that has allowed sex shops to thrive in ways that are 'unique to the area'.
'As with other Red-Light districts in Western Europe, Soho is being sanitized as part of larger gentrification processes and the worry is this diverse space will be stripped of its unique, cosmopolitan character,' she said.
The research, entitled Immoral geographies and Soho's sex shops: exploring spaces of sexual diversity in London (Erin Sanders-McDonagh, University of Kent; Magali Peyrefitte, Middlesex University) is published in the journal Gender, Place and Culture. See: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0966369X.2018.1453487
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Notes to editors
Established in 1965, the University of Kent – the UK's European university – now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.
It has been ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and 25th in the Complete University Guide 2018, and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, it is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.
Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.
In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities. Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.
The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.
Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.