Dr Zahra Stardust

Dr Zahra Stardust

Adjunct Lecturer

BA (History) (USYD), LLB (Hons (USYD), MA (Gender Studies) (USYD), PhD (Arts & Media/Law) (UNSW)

Arts, Design & Architecture
Centre for Social Research in Health

Zahra Stardust is a socio-legal researcher whose work is concerned with intersections between criminal law, sexuality, labour and justice. Her doctoral research Alternative Pornographies, Regulatory Fantasies, Resistance Politics examined the relationships between social movements and law reform. She has published book chapters in New Feminist Literary Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Orienting Feminisms (Palgrave, 2018) and Queer Sex Work (Routledge, 2015), and articles in Current Issues in Criminal Justice, the Journal of Sexual Health and the World Journal of AIDS. She is on the Editorial Board of the academic journal Porn Studies.

Zahra has fifteen years’ experience working on diverse social justice and human rights issues with community organisations, NGOs and UN bodies. She has worked as the Manager of Policy, Strategy and Research at the ACON (AIDS council of NSW) on HIV treatment & prevention, as the International Spokesperson and Policy Advisor for Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) on sex worker rights, and as a Board Member for the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby advocating for the removal of homosexual advance defence, the expungement of historical convictions and the strengthening of anti-discrimination protections. She is a volunteer with the Fair Play initiative at the Inner City Legal Centre, monitoring police in their drug detection operations at Mardi Gras, and a member of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights LGBTI Sub-Committee.

Prior to this, Zahra worked at Allens Arthur Robinson, where she did pro bono work with the Homeless Persons Legal Service and PIAC’s Indigenous Justice Project Returning Stolen Wages and was seconded to the Kimberley Land Council for the Aurora Native Title Internship Program. She was a casework assistant at Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre working on cases of discrimination, family violence and sexual assault, a Country Office Intern with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Eritrea contributing to adolescent sexual and reproductive health programs, and an intern with UN Women Australia contributing to Australia’s human rights reporting processes.

Over the last 10 years Zahra has taught Criminology, Gender and Cultural Studies, Social Research and Policy, Politics and International Relations and Criminal Law and Procedure at both UNSW and the University of Sydney. She has studied as part of the Summer Institute on Sexuality, Culture and Society at the University of Amsterdam and the Summer Doctoral Program at the University of Oxford Internet Institute. She has presented her research at conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, Scotland, Canada, Singapore and Japan, including as an invited speaker on Sex and the State at the International Bar Association Conference in Tokyo.

Zahra is currently working on a Stigma Indicators Monitoring Project with Scarlet Alliance and the UNSW Centre for Social Research in Health, collecting qualitative data on sex work stigma around Australia. She currently volunteers as a Mentor for the Women’s Justice Network, supporting women recently released from prison with social reintegration. She hosts a podcast called Thinking Justice in which she interviews academics, activists and critical thinkers about the past, the future and the limits of the law.


  • Book Chapters | 2023
    Stardust Z; Caldwell H, 2023, 'Archetypal Sluts', in New Directions in Sexual Violence Scholarship, Routledge, pp. 45 - 64, http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9781003379331-5
    Book Chapters | 2023
    Stardust Z; Caldwell H, 2023, 'Archetypal Sluts: Payment of Sex Workers as a Condition of Consent', in New Directions in Sexual Violence Scholarship: Law, Power and Change, pp. 45 - 63, http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9781003379331-5
    Book Chapters | 2022
    DeCat N; Stardust Z, 2022, 'Against Inclusion', in Handbook of Social Inclusion, Springer International Publishing, pp. 549 - 574, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-89594-5_28
    Book Chapters | 2021
    DeCat N; Stardust Z, 2021, 'Against Inclusion', in Handbook of Social Inclusion, Springer International Publishing, pp. 1 - 26, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-48277-0_28-1
    Book Chapters | 2020
    Hester H; Stardust Z, 2020, 'Sex Work in a Postwork Imaginary: On Abolitionism, Careerism, and Respectability', in The New Feminist Literary Studies, Cambridge University Press, pp. 69 - 82, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/9781108599504.006
    Book Chapters | 2020
    Sperring S; Stardust Z, 2020, 'Engorged:', in Mothers, Sex, And Sexuality, Demeter Press, pp. 213 - 240, http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv11vcf95.15
    Book Chapters | 2020
    Stardust Z; Hester H, 2020, 'Sex Work in a Post Work Imaginary: On Abolitionism, Careerism and Respectability', in Cooke J (ed.), New Feminist Studies: Twenty-first-century Critical Interventions, Cambridge University Press, pp. 69 - 82, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/9781108599504
    Book Chapters | 2020
    Stardust Z; Sperring S, 2020, 'Engorged – Fucking with the Maternal: An Analysis of Anti-Normativity, Cultural Legitimacy and Queer Authenticity', in Zwalf H; Walks M; Mortenson J (ed.), Mothers, Sex and Sexuality, Demeter Press, Ontario, Canada, pp. 213 - 240, http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv11vcf95
    Book Chapters | 2020
    Stardust Z, 2020, 'Sex in the Academy, Sex in the Field: Bodies of Ethics in Activist Research', in Wadds P; Apoifis N; Spurway K; Schmeidl S (ed.), Navigating Fieldwork in the Social Sciences Stories of Danger, Risk and Reward, Palgrave Macmillan, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46855-2
    Book Chapters | 2020
    Stardust ZZ, 2020, 'Sex in the Academy/Sex in the Field: Bodies of Ethics in Activist Research', in Navigating Fieldwork in the Social Sciences: Stories of Danger, Risk and Reward, Springer International Publishing, pp. 13 - 37, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46855-2_2
    Book Chapters | 2018
    Stardust Z, 2018, 'Safe for work: Feminist porn, corporate regulation and community standards', in Orienting Feminism: Media, Activism and Cultural Representation, Springer International Publishing, pp. 155 - 179, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-70660-3_9
    Book Chapters | 2018
    Stardust ZZ, 2018, 'Safe for Work: Feminist Porn, Corporate Regulation and Community Standards', in Orienting Feminism Media, Activism and Cultural Representation, Palgrave, Switzerland, pp. 155 - 179, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-70660-3
    Book Chapters | 2016
    Stardust ZZ, 2016, 'Pornography as Protest: Direct Action and DIY Porn', in The DIY Porn Handbook: Documenting Our Own Sexual Revolution, Greenery Press
    Book Chapters | 2015
    Stardust ZZ, 2015, 'Coming Out, Coming Hard: Privacy, Exhibitionism and Running for Parliament', in Coming Out like a Porn Star: Essays on Pornography, Protection and Privacy, Threel Media, San Francisco, pp. 300 - 305
    Book Chapters | 2015
    Stardust ZZ, 2015, 'Critical Femininities, Fluid Sexualities, and Queer Temporalities: Erotic Performers on Objectification, Femmephobia and Oppression', in Laing M; Pilcher K; Smith N (ed.), Queer Sex Work, Routledge, United Kingdom, pp. 67 - 78, http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415704557/
    Book Chapters | 2010
    Stardust ZZ, 2010, 'Subversion, Activism and Gender Play: The Underground Feminism of Erotic Performance', in Beyond Burning Bras Feminist Activism for Everyone, Praeger Pub Text, California, Colorado, Oxford, pp. 70 - 73
  • Journal articles | 2023
    Stardust Z; Albury K; Kennedy J, 2023, 'Sex tech entrepreneurs: Governing intimate data in start-up culture', New Media and Society, pp. 146144482311644 - 146144482311644, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/14614448231164408
    Journal articles | 2023
    Stardust Z; Gillett R; Albury K, 2023, 'Surveillance does not equal safety: Police, data and consent on dating apps', Crime, Media, Culture, 19, pp. 274 - 295, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/17416590221111827
    Journal articles | 2022
    Gillett R; Stardust Z; Burgess J, 2022, 'Safety for Whom? Investigating How Platforms Frame and Perform Safety and Harm Interventions', Social Media and Society, 8, pp. 205630512211443 - 205630512211443, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/20563051221144315
    Journal articles | 2021
    Blunt D; Stardust Z, 2021, 'Automating whorephobia: sex, technology and the violence of deplatforming: An interview with Hacking//Hustling', Porn Studies, 8, pp. 350 - 366, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23268743.2021.1947883
    Journal articles | 2021
    Stardust Z; Treloar C; Cama E; Kim J, 2021, '‘I Wouldn’t call the cops if i was being bashed to death’: Sex work, whore stigma and the criminal legal system', International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 10, http://dx.doi.org/10.5204/IJCJSD.1894
    Journal articles | 2021
    Treloar C; Stardust Z; Cama E; Kim J, 2021, 'Rethinking the relationship between sex work, mental health and stigma: a qualitative study of sex workers in Australia', Social Science and Medicine, 268, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113468
    Journal articles | 2020
    Stardust Z; Patten F, 2020, 'Sex, drugs and the electoral roll: talking body politics, civil liberties and law reform with Fiona Patten', Porn Studies, 7, pp. 143 - 151, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23268743.2020.1715091
    Journal articles | 2020
    Stardust Z, 2020, 'From Amateur Aesthetics to Intelligible Orgasms: Pornographic Authenticity and Precarious Labour in the Gig Economy', AG About Gender: International Journal of Gender Studies, 8, pp. 1 - 29, http://dx.doi.org/10.15167/2279-5057/AG2019.8.16.1115
    Journal articles | 2019
    Stardust ZZ, 2019, 'Revolting prostitutes: The fight for sex workers' rights', CURRENT ISSUES IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE, 31, pp. 442 - 446, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10345329.2019.1639585
    Journal articles | 2018
    Stardust Z; Kolstee J; Joksic S; Gray J; Hannan S, 2018, 'A community-led, harm-reduction approach to chemsex: Case study from Australia's largest gay city', Sexual Health, 15, pp. 179 - 181, http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/SH17145
    Journal articles | 2016
    Stardust ZZ, 2016, 'Performer-Centred Pornography as Sex Worker Rights: Developing Labour Standards in a Criminal Context', Research for Sex Work
    Journal articles | 2014
    Stardust Z, 2014, '‘Fisting is not permitted’: Criminal intimacies, queer sexualities and feminist porn in the Australian legal context', Porn Studies, 1, pp. 242 - 259, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23268743.2014.928463
    Journal articles | 2014
    Stardust ZZ, 2014, 'Protecting Sex Worker Human Rights in Australia', International Bar Association Human Rights Working Group News, 1, pp. 30 - 34, http://www.ibanet.org/PPID/Constituent/Human_Rights_Law/Default.aspx
    Journal articles | 2013
    Stardust ZZ, 2013, 'Fists are for Fucking, Not for Fighting: An Open Letter to all the Lovers, Kin and Mentors I have picked up at Sex Conferences around the World', Writing From Below, 1, pp. 101 - 106
    Journal articles | 2012
    Jeffreys E; Fawkes J; Stardust Z, 2012, 'Mandatory Testing for HIV and Sexually Transmissible Infections among Sex Workers in Australia: A Barrier to HIV and STI Prevention', World Journal of AIDS, 02, pp. 203 - 211, http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/wja.2012.23026
  • Conference Papers | 2015
    Stardust Z; Story T, 2015, 'CELEBRATING 20 YEARS: LESSONS LEARNT FROM THE DECRIMINALISATION OF SEX WORK IN AUSTRALIA', in JOURNAL OF SEXUAL MEDICINE, WILEY-BLACKWELL, pp. 321 - 321, https://www.webofscience.com/api/gateway?GWVersion=2&SrcApp=PARTNER_APP&SrcAuth=LinksAMR&KeyUT=WOS:000358488600117&DestLinkType=FullRecord&DestApp=ALL_WOS&UsrCustomerID=891bb5ab6ba270e68a29b250adbe88d1
    Conference Papers | 2015
    Stardust Z, 2015, 'THE HUMAN RIGHTS IMPACTS OF CRIMINALISING PORNOGRAPHY: IMPLICATIONS FOR A SEXUAL RIGHTS' AGENDA', in JOURNAL OF SEXUAL MEDICINE, WILEY-BLACKWELL, pp. 344 - 344, https://www.webofscience.com/api/gateway?GWVersion=2&SrcApp=PARTNER_APP&SrcAuth=LinksAMR&KeyUT=WOS:000358488600188&DestLinkType=FullRecord&DestApp=ALL_WOS&UsrCustomerID=891bb5ab6ba270e68a29b250adbe88d1
    Conference Abstracts | 2015
    Stardust ZZ; Story T, 2015, ''Celebrating 20 Years: Lessons Learnt from the Decriminalisation of Sex Work in Australia' in Special Issue: Proceedings from the 22nd Congress of the World Association for Sexual Health, Singapore, July 25–28, 2015.', in Journal of Sexual Medicine, Wiley: 12 months, Vol. 12, pp. 321 - 321, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jsm.12956
    Conference Abstracts | 2015
    Stardust ZZ, 2015, ''The Human Rights Impacts of Criminalising Pornography: Implications for a Sexual Rights Agenda', in Special Issue: Proceedings from the 22nd Congress of the World Association for Sexual Health, Singapore, July 25–28, 2015', in Journal of Sexual Medicine, Elsevier, Vol. 12, pp. 344 - 344, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jsm.12956

My Teaching

Criminal Laws LAWS 1022, JURD7122