Accessibility statement

Dr Mary Laing



Human Geography PhD, Loughborough University

Human Geography MA, Manchester University

Human Geography BA, Manchester University 


Mary is a Lecturer in the Sociology Department at the University of York. She joined the department in 2022, having previously been a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Northumbria University, and before that a post-doc at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) in the School of Criminology.

Mary is a collaborative and interdisciplinary researcher and her work broadly centres on sex work and the sex industry, with interests spanning non-heteronormative and queer sex work, sex work and health, sex work and technologies, academic experiences of researching the sex industry, safety and violence, collaborative methods and human rights. More recently Mary’s work has focused on the lived experiences of academics, especially those who switch disciplines and move into and out of criminology as well as the potential of walking as pedagogy; this includes co-developing the departmental Sociologically Imagining York podcasted walk.

Mary is a founding Board member of National Ugly Mugs (an award-winning sex worker safety organisation), retiring from her position in 2024 after 13 years of service on the Board. As well as publishing her work in academic books and journal articles, Mary has for nearly two decades engaged in policy work both as an individual and alongside sex worker groups responding (both in writing and via speaking opportunities) to both national (Home Office, Home Affairs Select Committee, various APGGs) and local consultations (various) focusing on sex work and criminal justice, social justice and health. She regularly engages in knowledge exchange and public engagement in the areas of sex work and the sex industry and criminology more generally. This includes delivering workshops on the co-created TransActions project and walking tours and talks at the York Festival of Ideas.



My research interests centre on the criminalisation of sex and sexualities with a focus on the sex industry. Over the course of my career I have worked on projects exploring various aspects of sex work including (but not limited to): non-heteronormative and queer sex work, sex work and health, sex work and technologies, academic experiences of researching the sex industry, safety and violence, collaborative methods and human rights. I am especially interested in developing creative, co-produced methodologies and knowledge alongside people of lived experience, which centres the knowledge and expertise of sex workers.  

In addition, I am developing a portfolio of work which focuses on the lived experiences of academics. Having published on activism and academia I am currently co-developing work on the movement of academics between disciplines. 


TransActions: Learning from trans sex workers to provide good care

This collaborative project engages with experiential experts and diverse practitioners to learn from and improve the experiences of trans sex workers in healthcare spaces. The project has been fully co-produced from project idea to delivery. You can learn more about the project on the TransActions website

Discipline switching, academic identity and the ‘interdisciplinary’ university: examining the experiences of academics moving into or out of criminology

This collaborative project examines the experiences of academics who have moved disciplines, focusing on those who have moved in or out of criminology. We are currently developing this piece of work to consider discipline switching more broadly across HE   

Sex work, human rights and the law

This participatory, collaborative project developed alongside academic colleagues and sex worker collectives in the UK seeks to develop a critical socio-legal approach to the use of human rights in social movements for legal reform. This project is still at the development stage.   


Based on the success of the podcasted walks co-developed with the department - Sociologically Imagining York, Death and Culture, The York Crime Walk - and alongside Ruth Penfold-Mounce and Kath Bassett, we have co-developed a project called PodWalks which focuses on walking as pedagogy.


Selected publications

Peer-reviewed publications

Laing, M., Cook, I. R., Baker, T., & Calder-Dawe, O. (2024). ‘Maybe I’m a quiet activist’: Sex work scholars and negotiations of ‘minor’ academic-activism. Sexualities, 27(1-2), 188-205.

Swords, J., Laing, M., & Cook, I. R. (2023). Platforms, sex work and their interconnectedness. Sexualities, 26(3), 277-297.

Graham, L. Holt, V. Laing, M. (2022) Understanding the law’s relationship to sex work: Introduction to ‘Sex and the law: does the law matter?’ International Journal of Gender, Sexuality and Law 2(1) pp: 1-18

McMenzie, L. Cook, I.R., Laing, M. (2019) Criminological policy mobilities and sex work: understanding the movement of the ‘Swedish Model’ to Northern Ireland, The British Journal of Criminology, Volume 59 (5): 119-1216.

Strohmayer, A. Clamen, J. and Laing, M. (2019) Technologies for social justice: lessons from sex workers on the front lines CHI ’19 Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Paper was awarded a prestigious honourable mention.

Other publications and resources

Laing, M. and North East Spicy Coffee Collective (2024) ‘Sex Workers’ in Bambra C, Davies H, Munford L, Pickett K et al. Woman of the North. Health Equity North: Northern Health Science Alliance.

Laing, M. Beach-Campbell, D. Strohmayer, A. and Carly (2023) TransActions: Learning from trans sex workers to provide good care.

Check out our co-developed sociological podcasted walk of York: Sociologically Imagining York.



Mary is a member of the criminology team within the Department of Sociology, and her teaching centres on the criminology degree provision. Mary has over the course of her career been nominated for multiple teaching awards for lecture delivery as well as dissertation supervision. She won a ‘Making the Difference’ award in 2024 for her role in co-developing the Sociologically Imagining York podcasted walk which is used in teaching across various modules in the department.

Mary teaches across year groups, including on the following modules:

  • Explaining Crime and Deviance (Year 1)
  • Understanding Contemporary Crime (Year 2)
  • Influencers and Ideas in Criminology (Year 3)
  • Gender Crime and Sexuality (Year 3)

Mary is Chair of the Exceptional Circumstances committee and is also a member of the ELMPS ethics committee.

Contact details

Dr Mary Laing
Department of Sociology
University of York
YO10 5GD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322683