chapter  3
28 Pages

Domesticating sex

While red light districts and zones of street prostitution are often understood to be the city’s ‘sex zones’ (Cameron 2004), this is misleading given sex itself happens in a variety of urban spaces, and not just the streets, parks, flats, saunas and brothels where sex is bought and sold. Yet the notion of a ‘city of zones’ has been an important one in the histories of planning and design in the urban West. Since the inception of town and country planning, dividing the city into distinctive and legible zones has been one of the key ways that planners and urban governors have sought to impart order on the metropolis, with plans typically making distinctions between retail cores, industrial areas, business districts, residential suburbs and so on. In the planner’s imagination sex is thought to properly belong in residential spaces where it is safely domesticated in the context of reproductive, monogamous relations. In turn, this imagination feeds on stereotyped views of gender and sexual roles (Hooper 1998), with numerous feminist critiques of modern planning pointing out that the spatial ordering imparted through urban planning has been based on particular ideas about the desirability of separating production and reproduction (McDowell 1983). Classic models of planning assumed that the male was the breadwinner, working in the city proper in business hours, while the woman was charged with social reproduction: preparing meals, doing the shopping and caring for

children. The home was central to this spatial imagination, being the hub of traditional family life and, by implication, the site where monogamous heterosexuality was institutionalized and normalized.