Skip navigation

Mary Laing nee Whowell

Senior Lecturer in Criminology

Department: Social Sciences languages

Mary completed both her undergraduate and MA degree at the University of Manchester in human geography. In 2006 she moved to Loughborough University to complete a PhD on the practice, performance and regulation of male sex work in Manchester. Following this in 2009, she was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to spend one year in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, to research the regulation of adult entertainment through municipal by-law and licensing. In September 2010 she joined the faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences at Northumbria University as a Lecturer in Criminology.


PhD Human Geography, Loughborough University 2009
MA Human Geography, University of Manchester 2005
BA (Hons) Geography, University of Manchester 2004

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

Mary's research interests centre on the regulation and criminalization of sex and sexualities, with a specific focus on the sex industry. This has been evidenced through PhD research exploring male sex work in Manchester (UK) as well as post-doctoral research on the regulation of exotic dance, escorting and body rub work through municipal by-law and licensing in Canada.

Mary is also interested in participatory research methodologies, and in 2013 with Adele Irving and in partnership with The Cyrenians, she launched a peer-research project exploring sex work in Newcastle upon Tyne. The project which is called PEER, made numerous local policy and practice recommendations which are currently being considered and implemented by local practitioners and Newcastle’s Strategic Sex Work Group.

Mary has publications in Sexualities, Geoforum, Journal of Law and Society and Geography Compass, and is currently co-editing a book entitled Queer Sex Work for Taylor and Francis.

In addition to Mary's academic research, since 2004 she has volunteered as a support worker for various sex work outreach projects, delivering harm minimization services to male and female sex workers, working in both on and off street contexts. She is also the joint academic board member of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, and with Jane Pitcher has led on a number of national sex work policy responses. See for more information.

Current/Recent Projects

‘At the interface of criminal and municipal law: regulating adult entertainment in Canada’, Post-Doctoral Commonwealth Scholarship, 2009, Principal Investigator

'PEER: Exploring the Lives of Sex Workers in Tyne and Wear’, with Adele Irving, commissioned by the Cyrenians, funded by Northern Rock Foundation, 2011, Principal Investigator

‘Evaluation of the National Ugly Mugs Scheme’, with Jane Pitcher (Loughborough University) and  Adele Irving(Northumbria University) and commissioned by the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, funded by the Home Office 2013, Principal Investigator

Key Publications

Laing, M., Pitcher, K. and Smith, K. (2015) (eds.) Queer sex work. Abingdon: Routledge.

Laing, M. and Cook, I. R. (2014) 'Governing sex work in the city'. Geography Compass, 8 (8), pp. 505-515.

Laing, M. and Irving, A. (2013) PEER: Exploring the lives of sex workers in Tyne and Wear: full report. Report for the Cyrenians and Northern Rock Foundation.

Atkins, M. and Laing, M. (2012) 'Walking the beat and doing business: exploring spaces of male sex work and public sex'. Sexualities, 15 (5-6), pp. 622-643.

Smith, N. and Laing, M. (2012) 'Introduction: working outside the (hetero)norm? Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) sex work'. Sexualities, 15 (5-6), pp. 517-520.

Cook, I. R. and Whowell, M. (2011) 'Visibility and the policing of public space'. Geography Compass, 5 (8), pp. 610-622

Whowell, M. (2010) 'Male sex work: exploring regulation in England and Wales'. Journal of Law and Society, 37 (1), pp. 125-144.

Hubbard, P. and Whowell, M. (2008) 'Revisiting the red light district: still neglected, immoral and marginal?' Geoforum, 39 (5), pp. 1743-1755.

To view my Northumbria Research Link page click here


Northumbria Open Days

Open Days are a great way for you to get a feel of the University, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the course(s) you are interested in.

Research at Northumbria

Research at Northumbria

Research is the life blood of a University and at Northumbria University we pride ourselves on research that makes a difference; research that has application and affects people's lives.


Order your prospectus

If you would like to know more about our courses, or life in general as a student at Northumbria, then we can help you.

Latest News and Features

More news
More events

Upcoming events

Social Work Stakeholder Day 2017
Get Graduate Job Ready 2017

Back to top