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Keywords:

  • legal geographies;
  • moral geographies;
  • sexuality and space;
  • planning;
  • proximity;
  • visibility

Abstract

Emerging research in sexuality and space outlines the diverse forms of spatial governmentality used to discipline non-normative sexual behaviours, exploring how exclusion, concealment, and repression combines to ensure that ‘immoral’ sexualities are out of the sight of the ‘moral majority’. In this paper, we explore this contention in relation to planning for sex service premises (brothels) in New South Wales, Australia. Though such sex service premises are now legal, our analysis nonetheless considers the way that these premises have been subject to forms of planning constraint that reflect planners' assumptions about the appropriate manifestation of sex premises within the urban landscape. By exposing the assumptions written into planning law that sex premises are legal but potentially disorderly, we demonstrate the evidential power of planning to reinforce dominant moral geographies through instruments which, at first glance, appear to be focused on objective questions of amenity and the ‘best use of land’. This paper hence explores the ways in which planners have translated assumptions of disorder into categories of visibility and distance, meaning that brothels have become hidden in plain view so as not to disturb the integrity of residential ‘family’ spaces.