Dr Lilith Brouwers


After finishing a PhD researching the role of third parties in sex work, I am currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change. My PhD research focused on directly policy-relevant research into the experiences of sex workers with (mostly criminalised) third parties involved with their labour. This research resulted from close collaboration with sex worker-led organisations and a clear academic and political knowledge gap in relation to the topic. The project found that the majority of third parties are sex workers themselves in the role of colleagues, that full service sex workers have different and more positive experiences with third parties in a non-managerial position than with managers, that sex workers show high levels of labour mobility power use, and that sex workers overwhelmingly feel that their working conditions and relationships with third parties could be improved with changes to the legal status of workplaces and third parties.

I am currently developing papers on hyper-precarity as a result of workplace criminalisation, the use of labour mobility power amongst sex workers, the conceptualisation of wider work relations, and the community compensation of research participants. In addition to that, I am developing further research on the high rates of disability and chronic illness amongst sex workers, with the aim of exploring the relationship between disability, the inaccessibility of mainstream work, and sex work. I will also be developing a project exploring the effect of the changing acceptance of digital work as a result of the pandemic on disabled workers’ access to the labour market. 

In prior work, I have run research projects and authored research reports for organisations supporting sex workers, and have trained staff at all levels of educational institutions on LGBTQ+ inclusion within their organisations. My academic background is in interdisciplinary research methods and Gender Studies, and I have guest lectured for psychology and medical students, in addition to students at the business school. 

Research interests

My research focuses on marginalised workers, labour that happens in the informal economy, and the relationships that workers form within informal or marginalised workplaces. It aims to focus on worker agency, the experiences of marginalised workers, and the structures that constrain and enable marginalised workers’ agency – such as criminalisation, ableism, migration policy and the hostile environment, transphobia, and workplace and labour market discrimination. The core ethics governing my research are: treating participants as experts of their own experiences, doing research that is of use to the community, and making my research accessible and impactful through workshops, training, reports and discussions.


Invited talks:

‘Understanding third party legislation for union staff and organisers’. United Sex Workers and United Voices of the World Unions, 2022.

‘Legal models of sex work legislation’. University College London Hospitals (UCLH) Inclusion Health Seminar Series, 2021.

‘The forgotten economics of sex work’. Women in Economics Seminar Series, Leeds University Business School, 2020.

‘The effects of third-party criminalisation on sex workers’. Decriminalisation and Sex Work event, Sheffield University, 2019, 

‘Sex worker rights and de-stigmatising health for sex workers’. University College London (UCL) for the British Undergraduate Society for Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2017.


Selected conference papers:

Centre for Employment Relations, Industrial Relations and Change (CERIC) Doctoral Conference.  Awarded third prize: ‘Conceptualising wider work relations – why non-managerial parties in sex work matter’, Leeds University Business School, 2022.

The Sex Work Research Hub & Irish Sex Work Research Network Postgraduate Research Conference, ‘Sex workers’ experiences with, as and without third parties: Wider work relations in sex work in England’, 2022.

International Labour Process Conference (ILPC). Theme: Security in Work? The workplace after COVID-19. ‘Using mobility power to navigate precarity: the experiences of full service sex workers in England’. University of Greenwich, 2021.

Political Economy Research Centre (PERC) Workshop: Mediating the Crisis: Platformisation in the Face of COVID-19 and Beyond. ‘‘We have advised sex workers to simply choose other options’ - the response of Adult Service Websites to Covid-19’, with Tess Herrmann. Goldsmiths, University of London, 2020.

Cambridge Socio-Legal Group Colloquium: Decriminalisation and Harm Reduction. ‘We risk either our safety or our liberty – Current full service sex workers’ views on decriminalisation of third parties’. University of Cambridge, 2020.

European Sociological Association (ESA) Conference.  ‘Third parties in full service sex work in England’. Manchester University, 2019


  • PhD Work and Employment Relations - University of Leeds, UK
  • MSc Gender Research - London School of Economics and Political Sciences, UK
  • BA Liberal Arts and Sciences - Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Professional memberships

  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)

Student education

I have taught seminars for courses at the University of Leeds and Utrecht University in the Netherlands: 

  • Seminars in Diversity Management, 3rd year undergraduate.
  • Seminars in Introduction to HRM, foundation year course.
  • Seminars in Economic Institutions - Industry, 1st year undergraduate.
  • Seminars in Multidisciplinary Research Methodology and Academic Writing, 1st year undergraduate.

In addition I have given several one-off guest lectures on establised courses:

  • Guest lecture on Research Ethics for HRM Research. Course: Human Resource Management Dissertation, University of Leeds.
  • Guest lecture and seminars on LGBT+ Inclusion in the Workplace. Course: Diversity Management, University of Leeds.
  • Guest lecture on Sex work and sex work law models in Europe. Course: Human Sexuality, department of Psychology, St. Mary’s University Twickenham.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change