Papers Given

“The scientists who shattered the repressed view of sex and brought us closer to our liberated selves”

Our project director, Professor Kate Fisher spoke at Sexology and ideology in the age of institutionalization (1960-2000), Centre interdisciplinaire d’étude des religions et de la laïcité (CIERL), Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), March 2018. Her paper was titled: ‘“The scientists who shattered the repressed view of sex and brought us closer to our liberated selves” (Naomi Joseph, reviewing Wellcome Collection, Institute of Sexology) Early Sexology in Twentieth Century Culture’.

Annual John Addington Symonds Celebration

In October 2017, Dr Jen Grove gave the Fourth John Addington Symonds Celebration lecture for the Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition, University of Bristol, organised in collaboration with OutStoriesBristol. Jen spoke on ‘EP Warren’s Classical erotica: LGBT+ activism and objects from the past’.

Abstract

Edward Perry Warren (1860-1928) is best known for giving his name to the “Warren Cup”, an ancient Roman goblet with explicit scenes of men having sex together (now in the British Museum). The classical antiquities Warren collected at the beginning of the twentieth century include many of those we now turn to for visual evidence of homosexual acts in the ancient world.

Drawing on original archive work, this talk will explore how Warren used such artefacts from ancient Greece and Rome to campaign for the acceptance of same-sex relationships in the modern world. Warren was particularly influenced by John Addington Symonds and his Greek-inspired idea of a comradely type of love between highly virile men.

This talk will also explore some of the problems of looking to Warren, the objects he collected, and the type of ancient relationship he was inspired by – between older and younger partners – for LGBT+ activism and education today.

Age difference and the emergence of gendered models of sexuality in European sexual science?

Our project directors, Professor Kate Fisher and Dr Jana Funke spoke at the conference Histoires de la sexologie / Histories of sexology conference, University of Lausanne, 12th December 2016. Their paper was on ‘Age difference and the emergence of gendered models of sexuality in European sexual science?’.

Abstract

This paper explores the centrality of ideas about youth and sexuality, sexual corruption and age-structured sexual relationships to the emergence and shape of European sexology. We argue that alongside and informing the emergence of an understanding of sexuality that divided people according to a gendered binary (homosexual/heterosexual) was a series of contested debates about youth and sexuality. Indeed the very category of the homosexual, defined by his/her attraction to an individual (of any age) but of the same sex was, in part, a response to the need to distinguish homosexuality from age-unequal relationships, that were increasingly seen as unacceptable. Our paper also puts cross-European dialogue under the microscope. Some of the tensions informing the emergence of gendered models of sexuality were locally specific (e.g. the Oscar Wilde trials, British public school scandals, the German Knaben-Liebe movement), whereas others (e.g. the study of texts and materials from ancient Greece, debates about the age of consent, etiological questions about the extent to which homosexuality was a matter of influence and corruption) were influential across Europe and discussed in European meetings and congresses. The challenges of facing appropriate methodologies for writing about European connections and European differences in the writing of European sexology is thus a key question that our paper will consider.

Trans* History Meets the History of Sexology: Interrogating the Past, Engaging Communities

Our project director, Dr Jana Funke, and Engaged Research Fellow, Dr Jen Grove, spoke at the conference Moving Trans* History Forward 2016 – Building Communities* Sharing Connections, University of Victoria, Canada, 17-20th March 2016. Their paper was on ‘Trans* History Meets the History of Sexology: Interrogating the Past, Engaging Communities’.

Abstract:

Sexology, the scientific study of sexuality, emerged in the nineteenth century and powerfully shaped modern trans* histories. Sexology is mainly remembered for its ‘medicalisation’ of trans* bodies, but early sexologists also studied gender diversity from broader historical, anthropological and literary perspectives. Drawing on our research on this cross-disciplinary dimension of sexology, our presentation asks how we can engage trans* communities to explore the overlapping histories of trans* and sexology. We examine recent exhibitions that have dealt with this relationship and reflect on our own engaged research, e.g. as part of Transvengers, a project that empowered young trans* adults to interrogate different historical sexological understandings of trans*. We will ask what can be gained by turning to the history of sexology and conclude by calling for innovative cross-disciplinary and collaborative methods that allow us to explore the past to think through gender and sexuality today.