Talking sex in Huddersfield

Exploring if modern media forces people to adopt hyper-sexualised lifestyles, identities and appearances, often against their will?

A University of Huddersfield researcher uses the term “compulsory sexuality” to describe the phenomenon and it will be the focus of the first seminar from a new network which will investigate wide ranging issues of gender and sex.

Named sexgen, it has been launched by academic experts at the universities of Huddersfield and Leeds, with a number of other leading northern universities joining the network.

One of the twin organisers is Dr Surya Monro, who heads the Gender and Sexuality Research Group at the University of Huddersfield, which hosted the new network’s launch event on 28 February. The seminar was fully subscribed and a range of sexgen seminars, at other participating universities, will follow on a variety of topics.

The Compulsory Sexuality seminar explored the effects of the “erotic imperative” and asked why, in the English speaking world in particular, “active, partnered sexual expression” is so highly valued. There were also discussions on the emergence of alternative sexed identities such as asexuality.

“The hyper-sexualised nature of the media places pressures on people to present themselves in certain ways,” said Dr Monro. She cited “the commercialisation of sexuality” and the rise of cosmetic surgery.

“It is great that we are a liberal country and that people can express their sexuality openly, but the point is that there is pressure on people to act in certain ways that they might not want to.”

The inaugural sexgen seminar included six presentations by academic researchers, two of them from the University of Huddersfield – Dr Monro and Dr Jo Woodiwiss.

Dr Monro explained that the sexgen network is aimed at academics and activists, plus people involved in the cultural field, so that representatives of the media and filmmakers are also involved.

“We had a full house, with about 60 people, who had come from all over the north of England, plus one from Kent and a speaker from the University of Glasgow,” said Dr Monro.

“The discussions were lively and there is clearly an appetite for a forum of this kind, where people involved in research at the cutting edges of gender and sexuality studies can network and share their research in a supportive environment.”


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