Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Professor Teela Sanders

Professor of Sociology

After gaining a D.Phil from Oxford University, I took up a post at the School in 2003. Before coming to Leeds, I was a social worker in child protection. My research interests have largely focused on various aspects of the British sex industry, represented in two monographs and a textbook. I continue links with grassroots organisations where the crossroads of research output and change lives.

Research Interests

Sitting on the borders of criminology and sociology, I explore the inter-relationship between human sexuality and socio-legal structures. My focus has been on the intersections between gender, regulation and the state, focusing on the UK sex industry. I am currently undertaking an ESRC funded study on the regulation and integration of lap dancing into the night-time economy.

Stripping and Licensing in the UK

Research: We are pleased to announce the launch of the online website resource for those working in the strip-based industry. Please click here for more information

A summary of the preliminary findings from the 'Regulatory Dance' ESRC funded project on lap dancing in the UK by Teela Sanders and Kate Hardy is available as a Special Report on the LSSI website. We also include some visual methods done in partnership with some dancers and photographer Liz Lock.

Working conditions of Internet based sex workers (Wellcome Trust)

This was pilot project exploring the working conditions and job satisfaction of Internet based sex workers. Working with our partners the National Ugly Mugs the aims of the project was to build on the little knowledge that exists about who internet-based sex workers are, how they work and their daily working lives, as well as their intersections with crime, the police and stigma. Alongside research assistants Laura Connelly and Laura Jarvis-King data was collected from a survey with 240 respondents, which is a significantly large number in comparison to previous surveys of this kind on sex work. From this we have a whole range of data that we did not have a year ago, from which we can start to make sense of this hidden and stigmatized population. Read about media coverage of the findings  in the Guardian, February 2015 

A discussion about the research with a student escort and I can be heard in this BBC Woman’s Hour programme (13th April 2015 – starting at 19:40 minutes). 

Beyond the Gaze

Dr Teela Sanders (University of Leeds) and Professor Jane Scoular (Strathclyde University).

  • Project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council for three years starting September 2015.
  • Main researchers are Rosie Campbell OBE based at Leeds, Stewart Cunningham and Dr Jane Pitcher based at Strathclyde.
  • Our overarching question is: How has the Internet shaped the 21st Century adult commercial sex industry in the UK and what is the role of regulation?

We intend to answer these questions using a mixed methodology to gather new empirical knowledge, and have designed a project consisting of a large national online survey of sex workers; qualitative interviews with 80 sex workers and 40 interviews those involved in the policing and regulation of online sex work activities.

  • In addition, there is an integrated service provision and developmental role built into the project team through a Research & Netreach Officer. 


My teaching interests lie in the fields of sex work, violence, 'deviant' behaviours, gender, sexuality, and qualitative research methods. Currently, I teach two level 3 courses. I teach postgraduate study skills and have published Getting Your PhD: A Practical Insider's Guide (2007, with Harriet Churchill). I also teach with the Open University.

Teaching: The Special Report on the LSSI website includes a video which makes the connections between research and teaching, demonstrating the cyclical nature of research informing teaching content and practices, whilst at the same time feeding back into the reflexive research process.

PhD Supervision

I have supervised 7 PhD candidates to date and have been invited to external for 7 PhD examinations.

I am keen to supervise research students who have developed ideas in the following areas:

• Crime and gender
• Informal economies
• The sex industry
• Exclusion and identity

Key Publications


Sanders, T and Hardy, K (2014) Flexible Workers: Labour, Regulation and the Political Economy of the Stripping Industry  (Routledge)

Harrison, M and Sanders, T (eds) (2014) Social Policies and Social Control: The Not so Big Society (Policy Press).

Hardy, K., Kingston, S. and Sanders, T. (eds.) (2010) New Sociologies of Sex Work5 (Ashgate).

Sanders, T., O’Neill, M and Pitcher, J (2009) Prostitution: Sex Work, Policy and Practice, Sage

Sanders, T.L.M. (2008) Paying for Pleasure: Men Who Buy Sex. Willan

Sanders, T.L.M. (2005) Sex work: a risky business. Willan

Journal Articles

Sanders, T., Hardy, K and Campbell, R (2015) Regulating Strip-Based Entertainment: Sexual Entertainment Venue Policy and the Ex/Inclusion of Dancers’ Perspectives and Needs, Social Policy and Society 14 (1) pp 83-92

Hardy, K and Sanders, T (2015) The political economy of lap dancing: intersectional precarities and women’s work in the stripping industry Work, Employment and Society 29 (1) pp 119-136

Sanders, T and Campbell, R (2014) Criminalisation, Protection and Rights: Global Tensions in the Governance of Commercial Sex Special Issue in Criminology and Criminal Justice  Nov 14 535-548

Sanders, T and Hardy, K (2013) Students Selling Sex: Marketisation, Students Selling Sex: Marketisation, Higher Education and Consumption British Journal of Sociology of Education OPEN ACCESS

Sanders, T (2010) (with Barb Brents) The Mainstreaming of the Sex industry: Economic Inclusion and Social Ambivalence. Special Issue for Journal of Law & Society; Regulating Sex/Work: From Crime Control to Neo-liberalism Vol 37, 1

Sanders, T (2007) (with Rosie Campbell) Designing Out Violence, Building in Respect: Violence, Safety and Sex Work Policy. British Journal of Sociology 58 (1) 1-18

Complete list of publications (Word Document, 48KB)

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