Zoning Damned Whores and God’s Police: Maintaining Prostitution through Land Use and Euphemism in Victoria, Australia

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Building a “respectable nation” from a penal colony meant prostitution created regulatory dilemmas in nineteenth-century Australia. This article traces regulations deployed in the state of Victoria since then to define and control women, buildings, and districts associated with prostitution. It argues that approaches of formal condemnation and tacit approval were adopted and increasingly framed around public health and land use zoning. Spatial planning now underpins prostitution control: efforts to legitimize and contain the sex industry have, however, failed to prevent the proliferation of euphemistic “massage parlors.” We argue that despite shifts in rationales, zoning and prostitution regulations maintain stereotypical binaries of “Damned Whores” and “God’s Police.”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-55
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Planning History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • gender
  • massage parlors
  • morality
  • planning
  • planning history
  • prostitution
  • zoning

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