Zahra Stardust is an activist, researcher and socio-legal scholar working at the intersections of sexuality, criminal law, human rights and social justice.
Her doctoral research, which won a Dean’s award for Outstanding PhD Thesis, examined the regulation of queer and feminist pornographies through criminal laws, classification codes, platform governance and the capitalist co-optation of sexual subcultures. Her forthcoming monograph Indie Porn explores DIY porn movements, resistance politics and precarious labour in gig economies.
Zahra is currently working on projects concerning sex work stigma, consent law reform and anti-protest legislation. She was a 2019 Emerging Scholar at the Crime, Justice and Social Democracy International Conference and has presented at conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, Australasia and Japan, including as an invited speaker for the International Bar Association. As a BKC Fellow she will explore governance, decision-making and accountability in the moderation of sexual content online.
Zahra’s research has been published in books such as New Feminist Literary Studies (Cambridge University Press), Queer Sex Work (Routledge Series on Crime and Society), Navigating Fieldwork in the Social Sciences (Palgrave Macmillan) and Orienting Feminisms (Palgrave Macmillan), and in journals such as the Journal of Sexual Health, World Journal of AIDS, Porn Studies, Research for Sex Work, AG About Gender and Current Issues in Criminal Justice. She has written for media such as ABC, Overland, New Matilda, Archer, The Conversation, Runway and Hustler Magazine, and been featured in articles for Vice, BBC News and SBS.
Over the last 15 years Zahra has worked in policy, advocacy, legal and research capacities with community organisations, NGOs and UN bodies on human rights and social justice projects in Australia and internationally, including UNFPA in Eritrea (on sexual and reproductive health programming), UN Women (on gender discrimination), the Environmental Defenders Office (assisting activists on criminal charges), Scarlet Alliance (giving evidence at parliamentary inquiries on sex work regulation), ACON (on HIV treatment & prevention and LGBTIQA+ health), the Inner City Legal Centre (assisting people experiencing domestic and family violence), the Women’s Justice Network (assisting women exiting prison) the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (on vilification and anti-discrimination), the Kimberley Land Council (on Native Title claims) and as a member of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights.
Zahra has studied at 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 is on the Editorial Board of international journal Porn Studies and a peer reviewer for Culture, Health and Sexuality. She hosts the podcast Thinking Justice, which brings together voices of organisers, academics and critical thinkers challenging us to imagine and create alternative futures. She lives on Gadigal land of the Eora nation, also known by its colonial name of Sydney, Australia.