Sexual Knowledge, Sexual History

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This interdisciplinary, collaborative research project is developing a new direction for the history of sexuality, applying the approaches and methodologies of the emerging discipline of Classical Reception to the study of the ways that ideas about sex and sexuality have developed in recent centuries.

We are exploring issues such as why and how people throughout history have turned to the past in order to make sense of sexual experience, what kinds of authority the past has exercised in popular and scholarly debates about sexual practices, identities, civilization and morality, and how changing interpretations of past sexualities reflect historical shifts in the way sex is understood.

For instance, in making sense of sexual behaviour, Western society has often looked to a wide variety of past cultures and civilizations (from antiquity to the Far East, from primitive cultures to the Victorians). Our research interrogates this Western fascination with sex in the past and examines the various ways the past has been marshalled in debates about sex and sexuality - to challenge contemporary beliefs, to sustain sexual identities, in support of movements for sexual reform, or in reinforcing claims about universal human desires.

Sexual Knowledge, Sexual History is jointly directed by Professor Kate Fisher and Professor Rebecca Langlands and is a Sexual Knowledge unit project.

See more on the project webpages.