Sex and Nature: 1800-2018

Sex and Nature: 1800-2018

DATE 10-11 June 2019. VENUE: Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM)

You can find the full programme below.







Sex and Nature



10-11 June 2019

Exeter, UK


Day 1, Monday 10 JUNE 2019


Venue: Garden Room at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), Queen St, Exeter EX4 3RX – enter through the Garden Entrance at the back of the RAMM.


9:00-9:15              Registration


9:15-9:30              Welcome by conference organisers Sarah Bezan (University of Sheffield) and Ina Linge (University of Exeter)


9:30-10:30           Keynote 1: Astrida Neimanis (University of Sydney): Toxic Erotics and Bad Ecosex

Chair: Sarah Bezan (University of Sheffield)


10:30-12:00         Panel 1: Sex, Nature and Species

Chair: Stewart A. Weaver (University of Rochester)

  • Ben Pitcher (University of Westminster): Neanderthal Sex and Trans-species Drag
  • Ross Brooks (Oxford Brookes University): Darwin’s Closet: Sex beyond Selection in The Descent of Man (1871)
  • Louise Logan (University of Strathclyde): Apes and Angels: The Representation of Pet Primates as Figures of Sexual Danger in the Illustrated Police News


12:00-12:45         Lunch served in Garden Reception, RAMM


12:45-14:15         Panel 2: Plants and Sex(uality)

Chair: Jana Funke (University of Exeter)

  • Joela Jacobs (University of Arizona): Eradicating Desire Root and Branch: Vegetal Eroticism and Human Nature
  • Sam Hampson (University of Cambridge): The Other in the Garden: Derek Jarman’s ‘Modern Nature’
  • Annemarie Mönch (University of Erfurt): Polyamorous Forest Interactions: Orgasmic Nature Writing in Algernon Blackwood’s “The Man Whom The Trees Loved”


14:15-14:45         Coffee break, Garden Reception, RAMM


14:45-16:15         Panel 3: Sex and Nature, from Model to Desire

Chair: Astrid Schrader (University of Exeter)

  • Pandora Syperek (Independent): Siphonophore Sex: The Blaschka Glass Marine Invertebrates and Other Slippery Gender Models
  • Kazuki Yamada (University of Exeter/ University of Queensland): ‘A kind of homesickness for the state of the ovum’: sex, ageing, and death in the cellular ecosystems of the fin de siècle (1870-1930)
  • Sarah Wade (Independent): Sexy Beasts & Saving Wildlife: ‘Pornographic’ Ecology in Contemporary Art & Visual Culture


16:15-16:45         Discussion


Short walk (1 min) from RAMM to Exeter Phoenix (Gandy St, Exeter EX4 3LS)


17:30-18:30         Talk and in-conversation with artist-in-residence Amy Cutler: The Private Lives of the Birds and the Bees – Eco-sex Pedagogies (venue: workshop space at Exeter Phoenix)


19:00-close         Conference Dinner at the Dinosaur Café (5 New N Rd, Exeter EX4 4HH) for those who have registered attendance.


Day 2 Tuesday 11 JUNE 2019


Venue: Garden Room at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), Queen St, Exeter EX4 3RX


9:00-10:00           Keynote 2: Greta LaFleur (Yale University): Sex, Outside

Chair: Ina Linge (University of Exeter)


10-11:30               Panel 4: Sex, Nature and Modernism/Modernity

Chair: Sarah Jones (University of Exeter)

  • Laura Doan (University of Manchester): Queering the Natural: Lord Berners and His Circle
  • Katie Sutton: (Australian National University): Approaching the Normal and the Natural in Fin-de-siecle German Sexology and Psychoanalysis
  • Elsa Richardson (University of Strathclyde): Animal Passions and Natural Foods: Vegetarian Sexuality in the Humanitarian League


11:30-12:00         Coffee break, Garden Reception, RAMM


12:00-13:00         Panel 5: Speculative Environments

Chair: Astrida Neimanis (University of Sydney)

  • Trycia Bazinet (Carleton University): The Chaos and Promiscuity of Speculative Geology: Post-Glacial Rebound of the Abitibi Lake
  • Eva Hoffman (Whitman College): Queer Futures: Reading Feminist Anthropocene Fiction in a Transnational and More-Than-Human World


13:00-14:00         Lunch, served in Garden Reception

During the lunch break we will be screening an excerpt from War Memorial Trilogy by transdisciplinary artist and researcher Graham Bell Tornado (artist statement can be found in your conference pack).


14:00-16:00         Panel 6: Sex, Nature and Politics

Chair: Eric Rogers (University of Cambridge)

  • Ian Fleishman (University of Pennsylvania): ‘Naturgeil’: Homo-Eco-Erotic Utopianism in Hitler Youth Films and ‘Boy Scout’ Porn
  • Hannah Boast (University of Birmingham): Theorising the Gay Frog
  • Kirsten Leng (University of Massachusetts Amherst) [via Skype]: Health, Nature, and Sexual Liberation: “Compulsory Able-bodiedness” and the History of Sexology
  • Tanya Bakhmetyeva (University of Rochester): Ecofeminism, Maternalism, and the Carnivalesque: the Spatial Politics of Women’s Environmental Activism in Poland


16:00-17:00         Final discussion and plans for publication.


The call for papers announced in December 2018 can be found below.

Call for Papers: Sex and Nature 1800-2018

Since 2016 the Ecosexual Bathhouse art venue has been touring the world. Designed by the Pony Express artist collective, this roving multi-chamber venue aims to explore ecological fantasies: visitors can visit a pollination gallery, a composting glory hole, and a honey bee swarm. Activating desire and channelling erotic expression towards the elements of water, earth, air and fire, the project aims to nurture a visceral connection to nonhuman animals, plants, minerals, and inanimate materials.

The Ecosexual Bathhouse is but one of a number of exemplary case studies that disrupt and display the entangled categories of “sex” and “nature.” This conference aims to interrogate and investigate diverse moments and sites where sex and nature, along with their practices, aesthetics, methodologies, and conceptual histories, are becoming visible in new and unexpected contexts, both in the present and the past, from sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld’s interest in ‘intersex butterflies’ in the 1920s to the botanical sex scene of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian (2007).

Historically, the relationship between sex and nature has long been contested. Ideas of nature and the natural have often been employed to secure and essentialise heteronormative binaries of sex, gender and sexuality. Much feminist and queer scholarship has been dedicated to revealing and challenging such uses of the natural. At the same time, the relationship between nature, the natural and sex has been interpreted to support a variety of causes: in the late nineteenth century, for example, feminists took on the cause of anti-vivisection because they saw it as indicative of a common objectification of women and animals. From Darwin and Linnaeus to Krafft-Ebing and Kinsey, categories of sex and sexuality were introduced into concepts of nature and the natural world. This categorisation of sex and nature led to highly contested and politicised debates among their contemporaries. More recently, the relationship between sex and nature has opened up debates in ecofeminism (Greta Gaard, Val Plumwood), material feminism (Elizabeth Wilson, Stacey Alaimo) and Anthropocene feminism (Claire Colebrook) that seek to rethink the relationship between sex and nature. Instead of rejecting or challenging the idea of the natural, such scholarship has demonstrated the queer and feminist potential of nature. Ground-breaking treatments of nature and sex have led to robust theorizations of queer ecologies (Catriona Sandilands, Astrida Neimanis), natural histories of sexuality (Greta LaFleur) and new kinship forms through reproductive technologies (Sarah Franklin), to name but a few.

The conference welcomes scholars from all disciplines drawing on a broad range of methodologies and focusing broadly on the period since 1800. We aim to explore the entangled categories of sex and nature by examining a wide range of topics related, but not restricted to:

  • Natural histories of sex and sexuality
  • Sexuality and nature: naturalising sexuality, sexing nature
  • Queering nature, naturalising queerness
  • (Un)natural sex, (de)naturalising sex, (re)naturalising sex
  • The politics of sexual nature
  • Nature, naturalness and normativity
  • Nature and feminist critique, past and present
  • The sexual politics of biotechnological reproduction
  • (De)extinction and (re)production
  • Sex and nature in the Anthropocene
  • Authorities on nature beyond natural sciences
  • Race, indigeneity, sex and nature
  • Human, animal, vegetable sexuality
  • Sex, nature and disability
  • Intra-species sexualities from prehistory to the present
  • Intersex across species-boundaries

Abstracts of 350 words, along with a 50-word bio, sent in word format or copied into email body, should be sent to Dr Ina Linge ( and Dr Sarah Bezan ( by 30 January 2019. Confirmed participants will be notified by early February 2019. Early career scholars and post-graduate researchers are expressly encouraged to submit abstracts. Travel bursaries will be offered to two postgraduate participants in exchange for live-tweeting during the conference and written reports following the conference. Please let us know in your abstract submission if you would like to be considered for these. We are keen to publish a selection of papers from the conference as an edited volume or special journal issue. Further plans will be discussed with delegates at the conference.

This conference is generously supported by the Wellcome Trust-funded Rethinking Sexology project.