Teach Out: The Sexual City


There has been national strike action for 8 days for the UCU. Staff at 60 universities across the UK have walked out calling for meaningful discussions over pensions, pay, the gender pay gap and the casualization of labour.

I have only been in my new job since September 30th but it was a privilege to offer one of my guided walks as part of the Teach Out sessions.




I have facilitated guided walks for the last 7 years, and am adding many more events in 2020.




Some previous examples of my walks were at FACT Liverpool, and I was also commissioned by artist Dr Alison J. Carr for her exhibition at Bloc Projects Sheffield.


It was pouring down with rain and I was expecting a glib reception at University Square. I was heartened and impressed that so many people came in such bad weather, including staff from other striking universities and students.




Like many fixed-term or other precarious staff I have found the strikes to be bittersweet. The solidarity has been overwhelming, and yet for the last 8 working days we have heard constantly about exploitation and insecurity. We have seen our own trajectories reflected a thousand times.


People are keen to talk about exploitation in the sex industry, but they are not so keen to talk about the rife exploitation in academia. I recommend you follow the Twitter hashtags #ucustrokesback #ucustrikes #precaritystories.


It is always an honour for me to share the city, and the places I have an intimate connection with. The older I get, the more passionate I get that we need to discuss exploitation full stop.


This walk took a different route in order to fit with the panel of ‘The neoliberal city’. We started in University Square talking about the tentacles of the neoliberal university project and how the ‘other’ is pushed out is this cleansing project. We paid respect to the sex workers who have been murdered, and spoke about international End Violence Against Sex Workers Day (December 17th).


I mentioned my article ‘They Only Care When There’s a Murder On’, and quoted some of the women. I wanted to frame this walk with the voices of street-working women.


As we walked through campus heading towards Oxford Street, I suggested that sex work is everywhere, that we must think of what is not visible, in addition to what we can see. I signposted to the Beyond the Gaze project.




I placed myself into the walk and narrative by stating my history as a dancer which I write about here.


We walked onto Hope Street and spoke at the corner of Maryland Street about the strong history of harm reduction that this city has.


Our next stop were the suitcases on Hope Street where we spoke about all those who are entered and left the city, and how migrant sex work is continually conflated with ‘sex trafficking’.


We headed on to the back of Liverpool Cathedral, overlooking Gambier Terrace. We spoke about the history of sex work in the city, and role of the church for inclusion practices (or not, as we discussed). As Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Research and Public Life at the University of Leeds, I am interested in the role between the right wing christian orgs and radical feminism.


We then walked down the hill and cut down Seel Street, stopping at Colquitt Street to talk about the adult store ‘Nice N’ Naughty’ and the debates surrounding the visible presence of sex shops and the ‘danger’ the present to women.


We also spoke about FACT and the ‘Real Work’ exhibition that my walks were a part of.


X in the City was our final destination, where we spoke about compulsory purchase orders and belonging in the sexual city. I signposted to my former colleague Dr Kay Standing and her work on lap dancing clubs and feelings of safety.




Thank you so much to all those who attended and supported, and to Amy Hughes-Stanley for the photos and live-tweeting the event.  I have a lot to think about from the rich discussions.


It has been amazing to meet colleagues from across the universities and to find out about their interests.


I find it bizarre that we should be aiming at producing journal articles which around 7 people will read. My passion is teaching and liaising with different orgs, that is where I feel I can make a difference.


I will be doing more walks and other events in 2020, all details will here and on twitter @princessjack.


Thanks, gemma x