Critical Sexology: “When is Sex Bad?”

Notice of the next seminar in this series, for anyone interested:


Current sexual discourses make it evident that many people feel, as they did in the early twentieth century, that sexuality per se is inherently dangerous or bad or damaging – in other words sex does not have to be linked to violence or exploitation or abuse to be a
negative force.

This is fundamental to, for example, many people’s desire to protect children from sexuality or some responses to sex work or the concept of ‘sex addiction’ and it seems to have been felt by many with equal force throughout the 20th century, regardless of the extent to which experience of sexuality had changed.

Those who do not share this belief tend to reject it without examination. But sex involves taking pleasure in another person as a body; where are the boundaries between pleasure and abuse? What is the difference between sexual need and other forms of intense desire for a person – for a friend, for a baby, for a mother? How, in what fashion, or to what extent, might sexual desire be inherently corrupting?

One possible route to this is asking when and how does sexual desire create what Martin Buber called I-it relationships in which the other is used rather than being considered as a person with whom ‘I’ might have an I- thou relationship, one in which I recognise their needs, desires and vulnerabilities?

And how then is abuse differentiated from positive experiences in contexts such as bathhouses where sex involves no intimacy? And what of those who actively reject the 1970s search for equality in sexual relationships?

Guest-organised and Chaired by Hera Cook


Dr Dan Healey (History, University of Swansea) ‘Bad Sex in a Bad Place: Penal homosexuality and the reform of the Gulag after Stalin’

Dr Hera Cook (Dept of History, University of Birmingham) ‘When is Sex
Bad? Children and Sexuality’

Dr Jan Campbell (English, University of Birmingham/ clinical psychotherapist) ‘Sex in Fantasy and Reality, and the Importance of Not Knowing what we Want’

In Discussion:

Ruth Hallam-Jones, (Relationship and Sexual Psychotherapist), Alireza Tabataie (Muslim Psychotherapist) Sue Newsome (Tantric Sex Counselling)

The seminar is open to all and entry is free. There is no need to register your intention to attend with the organisers.

When: 2-6pm, 28th May 2010

Where: Biology Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS.

Critical Sexology is an interdisciplinary seminar series organised by
Lisa Downing (, Meg Barker ( and Robert Gillett (


About janefae

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