Professor Teela Sanders

Professor in Criminology


Professor Teela Sanders’ research sits on the borders of criminology and sociology, exploring the inter-relationship between sexuality and socio-legal structures. The COVID-19 outbreak and the policies put into place to manage it are creating severe, life-threatening challenges to marginalised communities around the world. Professor Sanders is exploring the impact of the virus and its management on female sex workers in Kenya.

Through Professor Sanders’ Nairobi-based partner organisation, the Bar Hostesses Empowerment and Support Project (BHESP), it has come to light that many of the restrictions designed to contain the outbreak are creating conditions that adversely affect the sex worker community. These measures include a night curfew and closure of public spaces including bars and clubs. Health facilities have been drastically reduced and transport prices have increased, reducing access to essential services. These changes have had an immediate and intense impact on sex workers, leading to greater exposure to danger and risk.

Professor Sanders is researching these changes and developing ways to deliver health care to sex workers during the restrictions. She is exploring new and enhanced technological ways to deliver these services whilst adhering to COVID-19 restrictions.


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 regularly advise governments, the police, higher education institutes, NGOs and the broader third sector, forging collaborative relationships with partners to move forward evidence based policy and practice.

Developing Good Practice within Higher Education: Student Sex Work, Safety and Inclusion

Funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, this project will run from January 2021 until end of 2023. Teela Sanders supported by researchers Gaynor Trueman and Jessica Hyer, will carry out a programme of outreach to Higher Education institutions, as well as relevant HE organisations with responsibility for welfare, student experience and inclusion. This page introduces you to our mission, existing resources around student sex work, toolkit for staff and students that have been created and further information about this programme.

Beyond the Gaze: Working Practices, Safety and Regulation of Internet Based Sex Workers in the UK - 2015-2018

Dr Rosie Campbell and I have been funded by the ESRC to investigate how digital technologies have affected the sex industry. So far, the research team has conducted a survey with sex workers and customers, and interviews with sex workers, police officers across forces in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and key players in web design/marketing for platforms.

This study will lead to the development of an outreach info service for sex workers via the internet and a Netreach toolkit for good practice guidance on models of internet outreach and work with internet based sex workers.

Reviewing the Occupational Risks of Sex Workers in Comparison to Other ‘Risky’ Professions: Mental ill-health, Violence and Murder - 2017

Bringing together social scientists, epidemiologists, sex worker rights activists and health practitioners, this Wellcome Trust Seed Award project aims to understand how occupational health and safety differs between sex workers and other professions which are established as ‘risky’ because of the elevated prevalence of violence in the workplace and poor mental health.

Through literature reviews and evidence scoping, we will examine and synthesise data on the occupational risks of sex workers (female, male and transgender) across street and indoor workplaces in comparison to ‘risky’ professions as categorised by the occupational literature, focusing on three key areas: mental ill-health, violence and murder.

Working Conditions of Internet Based Sex Workers - 2015

This was a Wellcome Trust-funded 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 stigmatised population.



2020 Sanders, T., Brents, B., Wakefield, C., Paying for Sex in the Digital Age. UK and US perspectives, Routledge

2017 Sanders, T., Scoular, J., Campbell, R., Pitcher, J., Cunningham, S Internet sex work: Beyond the Gaze, Palgrave, London

2016 Oxford Handbook of Sex Offences and Sex Offenders, Oxford University Press (New York)

2014 (with Malcolm Harrison) Social Policies and Social Control: New Perspectives on the Not-so-Big Society Policy Press, Bristol

2014 (with Kate Hardy) Flexible Workers: Labour, Regulation and the Political Economy of the Stripping Industry, Routledge

Journal articles

  1. Scoular, J.,Pitcher, J Sanders, T., Campbell, R and Cunningham S (2019) Beyond the Gaze and well Beyond Wolfenden: The Practices and Rationalities of Regulating and Policing Sex Work in the Digital Age Journal of Law and Society online first May 20th 2019 OPEN ACCESS
  2. Platt, L., Grenfell, P Meiksin,R., Elmes, J., Sherman, SG,., Sanders, T., Mwangi, P., Crago, AM (2018) Associations between sex work laws and sex workers’ health: A systematic review and meta-analysis of quantitative and qualitative studies PLOS Medicine OPEN ACCESS DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002680
  3. Teela Sanders, Rosie Campbell, Stewart Cunningham, Jane Pitcher, Jane Scoular, The Point of Counting: Mapping the Internet Based Sex Industry, Social Sciences. Vol. 7, No. 5, 2018, pp. 233-241
  4. Campbell, R., Sanders, T., Pitcher, J., Scoular, J and Cunningham S (2018) Risking safety and rights: online sex work, crimes and ‘blended safety repertories’. British Journal of Sociology
  5. Connelly, L., Kamerade-Hanta, D, Sanders, T (2018) Violent and non-violent crimes against sex workers: The influence of the sex market on reporting practices in the United Kingdom, Journal of Interpersonal Violence


I am happy to accept applications to supervise PhDs on the following topics:

  • Crime and gender
  • Regulation and the sex industry
  • Gender/crime policy & practice
  • Women in the cjs
  • Acid/weapon crime


  • Understanding Criminological Research (Undergraduate)

Administrative responsibilities

  • Dean of Research and Enterprise College Arts, Social Science and Humanities
  • Campus Based Year 2 Personal Tutor
  • Deputy Director of Research

Press and media

Media enquiries

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