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Sociology: People


Holly Davis

Holly Davis
Dr Holly Davis
British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow
4F1 Room 4.03 21 Buccleuch Place Edinburgh UK
0131 651 3182
Research Interests
Sex & Gender, Feminism, Feminist Research, Sociology of Deviancy, Sex Work, Sex workers' rights activism, violence against women, Prostitution, Pimps

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Thursday 3:30-6 or by request

I am a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Edinburgh researching sex work clients in Scotland. I received a PhD in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh focusing on research exploring the experiences of pimps involved in illegal prostitution in the United States.  I have worked with various sex workers, former prostitutes, trafficking victims, male sex offenders, violent male offenders, domestic and sexual violence survivors,  and pimps/traffickers. My research interests include sex work, feminist sociology, sex and gender, criminology,  deviancy,  and various interfaces of sex and violence.

Current Research

Motivations and Incentives for Buying Sex : Contextualizing the Demand for Sex Work

Whilst sex work customers, or punters, represent a relatively sizable percentage of the adult male population in the UK, there is little data to contextualize the significance of that number. Research suggests approximately 11% of the adult male population in the UK pays for sex ‘fairly regularly’ (Kinnell, 2008). There has been minimal growth within in the literature on punters and overall these populations remain understudied in the UK and worldwide. As Scotland considers shifts in policing sex work to arresting punters and thereby criminalizing the ‘demand’ for prostitution, it is crucial that punters are investigated and understood as vital actors within the world of sex work. Demystifying the ‘demand’ for prostitution is imperative to the current debates on sex work laws in Scotland and has far reaching implications abroad. Within current Scottish sex work policy debates, the lack of research on the demand side of the transaction presents a glaring oversight and failure to obtain and consider crucial data for informing discourse. Problematically, on-going debates on policy are currently being undertaken with little to no input from punters. This research will focus on previously disregarded actors in sex work, punters, defined for this project as individuals who seek and use physical prostitution services.

Two competing notions are evident in the literature which reduce the purchase of sex solely to simple acts of sexual gratification and convenience, and another cohort of researchers unapologetically demonizes punters. Moving beyond oversimplifications, a more nuanced approach will be taken to examine the motivations and experiences of punters to explore the more complex incentives for purchasing sex and to personify these social actors. Close examination of the effects of stigma is called for in addressing the questions, because of the real and perceived differences in buying sex versus freely exchanging sex (Sanders, 2008). As a result, those who pay for sex within current frameworks are identified as ‘deviant.’  The core research framework would be that of a critical feminist lens. Within the critical feminist framework, data would be analyzed with special attention paid to existing inequalities in race, class, gender, and sexuality.

Courses Convened

The Sociology of Sex Work. 2018/2019. 2017/2018.  The Univerity of Edinburgh School of Social and Poltical Sciences.SCIL10085. Semester 2. 

Contemporary Feminist Debates. 2018/2019. 2017/2018. The Univerity of Edinburgh School of Social and Poltical Sciences. SSPS1000: Semester 1. 


Davis, H. (2017) “Pimp Desistance: The End Game” in Pimps in Situ. 2017.(eds) Marcus, A  & Horning, A. Springer Publishing.

Davis, H. (2013) “Defining ‘Pimp’: Working Towards a Definition in Social Research” Sociological Research Online. Vol 18:1.

If you are interested in being supervised by Holly Davis, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Sociology; MSc (R) Sociology