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Planning for Sex in the City: urban governance, planning and the placement of sex industry premises in inner Sydney

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Much recent scholarship on sexuality and urban spaces has focused on forms of urban governance. Within this literature an emerging body of work has begun to highlight how formal urban planning processes and regulations are increasingly used as mechanisms to govern sexuality within later 20th century Western cities, particularly through the placement of sex industry premises. This paper contributes to this literature through a case study of the emergence of gay bathhouses in land-use planning process within inner Sydney during this period. It highlights how the placement of these businesses within Sydney depends on a broad range of shifting and competing discourses on how sex industry premises impact upon the amenity of the city, its neighbourhoods and land uses—that is, their secondary impacts, cumulative effects, and contribution to urban ordering. On one hand, planning processes reveal ideas about how these establishments contaminate and pollute neighbourhoods and sensitive land uses such as schools or churches. On the other, there are also emerging arguments that sex industry premises such as gay bathhouses can improve the health and lifestyle opportunities for specific communities and residents within particular city environs. I argue that these latter positive discourses have guided the placement of gay bathhouses within the planning of Sydney over the last few decades.

Keywords: Urban governance; order; secondary impact; sex industry premises; urban planning

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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