Research project

The Intersection of Sex and Money

Principal Investigator
Dr Isabel Crowhurst
Reflection of red umbrella in the rain

The intersection of sex and money prompts strong, often diverging views, yet the research that could inform policy is fragmented and marginalized.

Due to the combined pressures of globalisation and changing patterns of migration, trafficking and the commercialisation of sex, prostitution has received unprecedented levels of attention in the last three decades.

This has led to a heightened demand for effective models of regulation, for legal harmonization and sharing practice across jurisdictions. Nevertheless, much is contested in this field, with countries adopting varying approaches in light of their own particular political, social and legal cultures. 

COST Action IS1209 – ‘Comparing European Prostitution Policies: Understanding Scales and Cultures of Governance’ (ProsPol)’ was a network that lasted four years, 2013-2017, bringing together researchers and sex-work activists from Europe and beyond to compare and disseminate knowledge about the multiple contexts, features and effects of prostitution policies at the European, national and local levels. ProsPol included over 90 members from over 20 countries and it was coordinated by Dr Crowhurst.

At present there are no efficient strategies to address these complex issues and their comprehensive analysis remain fragmented, with little communication amongst researchers from different countries and between researchers and policy makers. ProsPol aimed to fulfil the pressing need to exchange knowledge and develop comparative approaches on prostitution policies, their effects and the complex contexts influencing them. It provided an innovative platform of exchange to enhance understanding of how concepts, policies and practices transfer across national cultures and local contexts, and the implications this has for knowledge exchange and coordination in the field.Among its achievements were two ground-breaking conferences in Vienna and Copenhagen, the first international conferences entirely dedicated to sex work, public debates, including in countries that usually marginalise the topic, and innovative research evidence. Wider engagement was central to ProsPol’s success. The Action’s meetings included politicians, the media, sex workers and representatives of justice systems, while keynote addresses were open to the public. A number of leading publications emerged from events and networking organized and facilitated by ProsPol, and the first book series dedicated to sex industry studies ‘Interdisciplinary Studies in Sex for Sale’ [] published by Routledge and co-edited by Dr Crowhurst was also started. Prospol was featured as an example of a highly successful Action on COST’s 2018 annual report. While it has officially concluded, many of its members continue working together in research and advocacy in the field.


ProsPol received over 440,000 from the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), a funding organisation for the creation of research networks, which receives EU funding under the various research and innovation framework programmes.