Legal geographies-controlling sexually oriented businesses: law, licensing, and the geographies of a controversial land use

Phil Hubbard, Roger Matthews, Jane Scoular

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, we explore both a neglected geography (the location of sexually oriented business) and a neglected instrument of sociospatial control (premises licensing). Arguing the former is increasingly shaped by the latter, we suggest that licensing provides a flexible means by which the state is able to reconcile the growing demand for "adult entertainment" with concerns about community standards, urban aesthetics, public safety, and property prices. We demonstrate this through an examination of the role of UK licensing legislation in controlling the location and visibility of such controversial businesses in London's West End. It is demonstrated that, in this case, licensing has encouraged the "upscaling" of sex-related businesses while reducing their overall number and visibility. We conclude that licensing, as a means of controlling contentious urban land uses, constitutes a "field of governance" whose legal geographies remain to be adequately theorized and explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-205
Number of pages20
JournalUrban Geography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • sexuality
  • legal geography licensing
  • sex-related business

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