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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

New Directions: Gender, Sex, and Sexuality in C20th Britain

This was an excellent small and focused conference that took place today at University College London.

It reflected several things currently happening in history of sexuality - the spatial turn, from postwar planning of domestic spaces to produce new forms of masculinity to the very specific space of Cardiff's Butetown associated with prostitution and cross-race sexuality; the recognition of the continuing significance of religion, both in the panel dedicated to it and in Sean Brady's compelling paper on the role of sectarianism in attitudes towards on homosexuality in Northern Ireland; the importance of popular media (in this case the tabloid press) as a means of circulating sexual knowledge, not necessarily in the way the editors intended. Material culture also made an appearance in the form of the repositioning of the condom in the 1970s.

There was a very welcome attention to differing regional experiences. Besides Brady on Northern Ireland, and Simon Jenkins on transgressive sex in Cardiff, we had a taster of Helen Smith's impressive work on working-class men in South Yorkshire who related sexually to other men in the pre-Wolfenden era, and Jane O'Neill's work on Scottish young peoples' negotiations around sexuality since World War II.

There were also plenty of opportunity for informal interactions over lunch, coffee, and eventually wine.

The organisers can be congratulated on a very successful day.

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