Monday, 3 August 2009

SSSP Conference Presentation: Public Sex

I'm off to the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems later this week in San Francisco. Followers on Twitter will no doubt be treated to my Heathrow frustrations during Wednesday. I'll also try and tweet my way through the conference (subject to technology). I have a suspicion that Audioboo won't work unless I can find some free wi-fi so it will be mainly text. Anyway, I'll be speaking a bit mroe on my public sex research and it will be nice (terrifying?!) to see how it goes down with this broad audience. I'm speaking on Friday in session 2 and as the conference is following the American convention of starting early, the slot kicks off at 8.30am. Whoo hoo! The abstract for my paper can be read below:

Public Sex and the Law: A UK Perspective

Legal reform of sexuality appears to have focussed upon the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual community in recent years. By the end of the first decade of the twenty first century those men and women who identify as gay and lesbian find themselves the benefactors of a raft of measures incorporated into English law during the preceding decade. Civil Partnerships, the repeal of Section 28 which prevented teachers from ‘promoting’ homosexuality as it was a ‘pretended family relationship’, new adoption rights, new rights of access relating to goods and services and a concomitant shift in societal attitudes have dominated discourse relating to law and sexuality.

Yet despite this shift, as recently as 2003 the law relating to the policing of public sex was re-stated largely along the same lines as the previous legislation designed to reflect the attitudes of a 1950s and 60s Britain. For the media, law makers and law enforcers public sex appears to remain a social problem. Whilst ‘gay’ sexual acts and identities have seen a raft of legal reform and international debate, notably the recent Proposition 8/gay marriage protests; acts that might take place between men who have sex with men, heterosexual couples and bisexual couples or groupings have received less attention.

This paper will seek to examine the current status of public sex in English law. It will draw upon original research into the operation of the ‘public sex community’ primarily in England and Wales but will also give consideration to international locations, particularly in the USA. This paper will draw upon multi-disciplinary research in this under-researched field. This original research takes the form of an asynchronous virtual ethnographic study incorporating snowball sampling. It will highlight the varied and sometimes contradictory approaches to policing within England and Wales and offer insights into the growing role that technology is playing for both sides.

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