Sex, Gender, Identity and Risk Programme of CeASR
Guest Speaker: Dr Meg-John Barker, Psychology in Social Sciences, The Open University
Over the last few years one of my main projects has been that of analysing existing sex advice materials (Barker, Gill & Harvey, 2016; forthcoming 2016), and producing alternative materials based on those analyses (e.g. Barker & Hancock, forthcoming 2016). This is an example of my wider activist-academic approach which combines critical engagement with media, collaboration with activists and communities, and creative development of (anti-)self-help style materials, in an ongoing dynamic process.
In this presentation I’ll discuss the key findings of the sex advice analysis in relation to the wider cultural messages these materials tend to reflect and perpetuate. While rarely explicitly stated, the implicit assumptions driving the vast majority of mainstream sex self-help books are that people must be sexual (the sexual imperative) and that they must also be in a certain kind of long term intimate partner relationship. This creates a tension as most books acknowledge that it is difficult to sustain sex within such relationships, but the solutions offered in these books must not stray outside certain normative sexual scripts and heteronormative and mononormative relational restrictions. This tension can be seen in the advice that is given about sexual practices, and about sex communication.
I’ll also talk about possible strategies for resisting these messages and for providing alternative suggestions, with a particular focus on the books, web materials, animations, and zines that I’m currently developing with colleagues. Such work draws upon the more informal kinds of peer-to-peer advice which are being produced and shared online and offline in sexual communities, such as BDSM, asexual, queer, and feminist communities.
Refreshments provided from 15:45 hours