Research

This is a list of projects that members of Sense about Sex are involved with.

Research Projects

Pornresearch.org

A project concerned with the everyday uses of pornography, and how the people who use it feel it fits into their lives.

Pornography is of course a highly topical issue, subject to many opposing views and ‘strong opinions’. And we are not saying that there are no moral or political issues.  But we are saying that the voices of users and enjoyers have been swamped.  In fact, there is very little research that engages with the users of pornography, asking how, when and why they turn to it.

A Contemporary History of Female Sexual Dysfunction, 1960 to the Present

‘Female Sexual Dysfunction’ (FSD) is an umbrella term for diagnoses in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) relating to desire, arousal, orgasm, and pain. According to a recent and widely disseminated statistic, 43% of women suffer from a sexual dysfunction. Several pharmaceutical compounds for female sexual problems are in development, and the condition is gaining in media prominence. This research asks what are the shifting relationships between psychiatry, feminism, and sexology since 1960 that have enabled FSD to emerge as a medico-psychiatric category in the US and UK. The project enables a re-assessment of historiographies of the post-war decline of psychoanalytic psychiatry and the emergence of a renewed ‘biological psychiatry’. Making use of a wide range of sources, medical and popular, it also details the legacy of the fraught relationship between feminism and psychiatry in contemporary post-feminist discourse about sex and in the avoidance of etiological questions that characterise the contemporary FSD debate.

Enduring Love

The Enduring Love? research project is an exciting development in the study of personal and family lives in contemporary Britain. Much recent policy, academic and professional research has focused on the causes and effects of relationship breakdown, but many heterosexual and same sex couples also remain together for significant periods of time. In some ways, then, these couples appear to sit outside a growing tendency towards serial or transitory relationships. To understand more about couples who stay together, our research will focus on the meanings and everyday experiences of long-term relationships. However we will not be presupposing that such relationships are uniformly loving or straightforwardly associated with contentment. The project will rather be concerned with what helps people sustain relationships and how cultural myths, such as finding ‘the one’ and living ‘happily-ever-after’, are understood and reconciled by adult couples whose own relationships may fall short of these romantic ideals.

Research Networks and Seminar Series

Onscenity

This research network draws together international experts in order to respond to the new visibility or ‘onscenity’ of sex in commerce, culture and everyday life. It responds to public concerns about a range of issues including the new accessibility of pornography, the mainstreaming and normalization of sexually explicit representation, the commercialization of sex, the role of the internet in circulating ‘extreme’ images, and the use of communication technologies, often by young people, for sexual purposes. It is supported by leading academics in the field and will draw together scholars from Europe, the US, Hong Kong and Australia at a series of workshops, seminars and symposia.

Pornified

A seminar series and conference on the ‘sexualisation of culture’ which took place in 2010 and 2011. The series featured 5 seminars, an art exhibition and a large international conference which took place in London in December 2011. The series was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and organized by Meg Barker, Rosalind Gill, Emma Renold and Jessica Ringrose.

These seminars were staged in response to a growing set of popular concerns that society is becoming increasingly ‘sexualised’ or ‘pornified’. There seems to be a preoccupation with sexual identities, practices, and experiences in the 21st century, with frequent controversies, panics and scandals about sex and an unprecedented level of sexual revelation. Anxieties have focused, for example, around sexualised music videos, the rise of ‘porno chic’ in advertising, online pornography, and sexualised clothing for women and children.

Commentators disagree, however, on what sexualisation is, what gave gave rise to it, what effects it might have, and how we should interpret it. Some argued that sexualisation commodifies private, intimate experience and threatens public decency. Others more optimistically regard it as expanding sexual options and democratising desire. Feminist commentators have debated whether sexualisation repackages the objectification of women as empowerment, or whether it should be celebrated as a form of sex positivity.

Critical Sexology

An interdisciplinary seminar series for psychologists, sociologists, psychoanalysts, medical doctors, literary and cultural studies scholars, philosophers, artists, lawyers, and historians with a critical interest in the construction and management of gender and sexuality in the medical, discursive and cultural spheres.

Established in 2002 by Iain Morland and Lih-Mei Liao, Critical Sexology has since held three seminars per year. All meetings took place in London until 2011, when “Critical Sexology up North” was launched. One in three yearly sessions is now held at a university in a northern location, with plans to introduce an annual Midlands session from 2014.

Love Research Network

An international network of researchers from a variety of disciplines including literary and film studies, philosophy, anthropology, management, sociology, political science, and geography. Some are based in the UK, many others in other European countries, Israel and North America. In our collaborative and comparative research we look at experiences and representations of love. There is no limit to the scope of our work regarding the types of love studied such as parental love, romantic love, love-thy-neighbour, patriotism etc.

We currently focus sharply on the present. This focus does not imply that somehow at midnight of the first of January 2000 a paradigm shift had occurred. Love is durable and it is flexible. It is shaped and reshaped by physiological and psychological constants, by the extremely longue duréeof evolutionary processes, by centuries of love doctrines, and by profound changes in society that have occurred in the last century and decades. While we tend to believe in eternal values of love and even eternal love, our experiences often feel new, unprecedented and challenging.