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Study Argues That Soho’s ‘Sexual Character’ Should be Preserved

Soho’s ‘unique’ sexual character should be preserved, say researchers.

Soho’s renown and unique sexual character should be preserved in the face of gentrification, argues a new study by academics at the universities of Kent and Middlesex.

Soho has long been recognised for its expanse range of shopping districts, as well as its diverse collection of citizens including the LGBTQ and kink communities.


The study argues that whilst Soho is still 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 two sex shops with a diverse clientele in the Soho district as case studies, researchers shone a light on the importance of the space it creates for people with interests that aren’t aligned with the mainstream and might normally be ‘marginalized or pushed to the periphery’ for their sexual tastes.

Pointing out the impact that the Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1982 had on the district, the study found that sex shops in the area declined from more than 50 to its current total of of 12 licenced shops today.

Research also highlighted how a high concentration of sex shops in Soho are located within half a mile of one another, a vast contrast to many other areas in the UK.

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.

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:

Written by QWEERIST editor

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