The Democratisation of Gender after the Sexual Offences Act ( 1967 ) and How It Affects Queer Studies
E.M. Forster ‘s novelMaurice, written between 1913 and 1914, but non published after his decease in 1970, is a seminal work supplying a moving, personal portraiture of homosexualism and homophobia in 20Thursday-century England. Exploration of its elaborate histories of attitudes about homophiles and their assorted reactions to the favoritism they faced—for case, denying their homosexualism and marrying ; encompassing their homosexualism, but discreetly ; go forthing the state for more open-minded cultures—serves as an first-class starting point for researching the implicit in cultural model and values which will organize the capable affair of this essay. Of no little note is that Forster, whose repute as a literary mastermind, believed his ain homosexualism excessively powerful a secret to come out, as it were, until after his decease, in a manner wasting his ain societal power and the possible to emancipate both himself and other homophiles.
Britain, beginning of so much cultural and political plangency and of the democratic rules which are now held to be axiomatic in modern Western states, had a peculiarly hard clip fring itself of a virulent and relentless signifier of favoritism: its pig-headedly conservative refusal to accept homosexualism and homosexual behavior into the cultural norm of its society. Indiscreet homophiles in England of the 20Thursdaycentury could look frontward to a life of dogmatism and favoritism, to state nil of fiscal and personal ruin and imprisonment, as homosexualism was still a condemnable offense in England until 1967.
“The bounds of the sexually acceptable are still at that place. Geographic location and economic position significantly impact how free persons are to take to be unfastened about their sexual orientation. And some orientations are still problematic.”
As the above citation suggests, the issue of homosexualism remains a dissentious issue. This is in malice of 40 old ages go throughing since the decriminalization of homosexualism in Britain ; forty old ages that have besides witnessed the homosexual community ( both males and females ) move in from the borders of mainstream society in order to busy more powerful places of authorization. This has been meted out in political office, in popular civilization and in the planetary mass media. Yet, in malice of this, there remains – at the morning of the 20 first century – a sense that homosexualism is a life style that stands at odds to all that nice society holds dear. Even in the United Kingdom, likely the most secular state in the universe, the moral facet of homosexualism is ne’er far from the surface of the argument over how cheery people are supposed to incorporate into a preponderantly heterosexual sphere. This is the Southern Cross of the argument discussed herein.
For the intent of position, the undermentioned essay must follow an incorporate attack, trying to synthesize the theoretical and historiographical arguments sing the experiences of cheery people in station war Britain. In this manner, we can follow the societal, political and legal development of the democratization and liberalization of gender and gender in the UK while at the same clip offering a review of the purposes and accomplishments of the cheery motion at this clip. Furthermore, the continuities and alterations of the homosexual landscape in station war Britain can be more accurately depicted amid the relevant academic literature of the times. A decision can so be sought that efforts to put the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 within its right historical and theoretical context. First, nevertheless, a brief overview of this Act of Parliament must be ascertained so as to set up a conceptual model for the balance of the treatment.
The Sexual Offences Act that was passed by Westminster in 1967 was a landmark piece of statute law that sought to turn to the rough legal inequalities between homosexual and heterosexual people with respects to their private lives and the manner in which these private lives were dictated by the public and political domain. The drift behind the reform of Torahs refering to homosexualism in the United Kingdom came from the Wolfendon Report, which was commissioned in 1957 to foreground the indispensable differences between offense and wickedness. Basically, while society and the fabrication of cultural consensus may so hold deemed homosexualism as a wickedness ( or a illness ) to compare it with criminalism was deemed in many circles to be anachronic and blight against station war British civilization and its values. This is an of import point and one that ought to be borne in head throughout the treatment: the 1967 Sexual Offences Act marked the first serious effort at the legal decriminalization of homosexualism in the United Kingdom since the Buggery Act of 1533 when the British province foremost sought to wrest the issue of cheery matching off from the ecclesiastical tribunals and into the legal tribunals of the kingdom. Viewed through this prism, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act can be seen to be a symptom of the broader civil rights motion of the 1960s which oversaw the criminalization of inequality associating to gender, race, credo and faith in all of the major states of the western hemisphere. The Act could non hold come about without there first holding been in topographic point the being of broad young person civilization that was able to utilize the tools available within a democratic province in order to buttonhole the political constitution for societal and cultural reform.
Therefore, although the Act itself has since been unfastened to charges of lip service ( the consequence of the Act witnessed an addition instead than a lessening in the Numberss of apprehensions of cheery work forces for interrupting the new jurisprudence ) and bias ( the Act clearly and identifiably differentiates between homosexual and heterosexual people with respects to the ‘age of consent ‘ with 20 one being used for cheery people in comparing to sixteen for consecutive people ) it should nevertheless still be seen as an of import milepost in the development of a more classless British society. Surely, in legal footings, 1967 must be seen as the get downing point of any treatment with respects to the democratization of homosexualism in station war Britain as before the coming of the Sexual Offences Act homosexual Acts of the Apostless were seen as basically condemnable activities and hence placed outside of the bounds of the regulations, ordinances and imposts of decent, civilised society. Therefore, while mainstream civilization and the political constitution may good hold both publically and in private continued to denounce homosexualism in all its signifiers as a wickedness ( and preferred to maintain homosexualism steadfastly outside of the kingdom of civilized society ) , the remotion of the apparition of a condemnable offense telegraphed a major turning point in the manner in which cheery people were viewed and treated in station war Britain. Furthermore, without the Act, the subsequent accomplishments of the cheery motion in the UK would ne’er hold been able to get down to take topographic point as the legal model in which the homosexual motion lobbied for reform during the 1970s and 1980s would non hold existed. Democratization of gender in station war Britain therefore begins in 1967.
However, as suggested above, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act has left itself unfastened ( peculiarly within the gay community ) to claims of being as an basically conservative step that was merely passed due to grounds of political expedience as opposed to the political constitution in Britain really wishing to see a touchable democratization of gender. By set uping such a high age of consent for homosexual twosomes, the Act merely served to cement the societal stigma associated with homosexualism because after this point it was seen by jurisprudence in Britain to be a yoke that was deemed unsuitable ( and illegal ) for immature people to prosecute in. Sing that the teenage old ages are the most of import phase of sexual development in both males and females, the high age of consent intentionally aimed to curtail the pattern of homosexualism amongst the really demographic that would be most likely to prosecute in ‘experimental ‘ gender. This merely increased the seamy image of homophiles in Britain at the clip, connoting that big homosexual work forces were in some manner captive upon ‘grooming ‘ immature males to fall in their ain sexual trade name of subculture. Viewed through this prism, the Sexual Offences Act can be seen to be a positive legal measure but likewise a negative cultural measure. The addition in the figure of apprehensions of cheery work forces in the old ages that instantly followed 1967 should be seen as testimony to this ultimate prolongation of inequality refering to gender which was the socio-political residue of the Sexual Offences Act. In this manner, the myth of the permissive society was established to fulfill the libertarian political orientation of the left wing of the political elite. The satisfaction and position of homosexual people, on the other manus, seems non to hold been a consideration refering the passing of this landmark piece of domestic statute law.
In specific footings of the development of fagot theory, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act can be seen to hold helped to make fertile evidences for the flowering of the domestic and international homosexual rights motion because of the manner in which the Act of Parliament served to lawfully solidify the differences between homosexual and heterosexual people. This sense of marginalization from mainstream society was aided by the Stonewall Riots which took topographic point in New York City in 1969 in response to patrol ferociousness against homosexual and transgender people at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. This episode provided the drift behind the formation of the Gay Liberation Front ( GLF ) which was established in July 1969, rapidly going a trans-national phenomenon that profoundly influenced the homosexual rights motion in the UK. The cumulative consequence of the biass legalised in the 1967 Sexual Offences Act in add-on to the biass viciously realised in New York City in the Stonewall Riots was to build a cheery motion that was both lasting and international. Furthermore, the sensed unfairnesss of the sixtiess besides served to ally the sapphic and cheery motions so that one touchable homosexual community was apparent by the bend of the decennary in both Europe and the United States of America. This clip period was hence a important minute in the development of fagot theory in station war Britain.
However, it can be argued that by organizing a planetary homosexual motion that judged rank with the motion in footings of sexual individuality, international motions such as the Gay Liberation Front succeeded merely in confirming the divisions put frontward by steps like the Sexual Offences Act. Queer theory, from the beginning, was captive upon disputing the mainstream socio-political position quo by utilizing agencies that were basically antagonistic productive in visible radiation of the cheery motion ‘s statements that gender and sexual individuality was non ‘fixed ‘ or compartmentalised harmonizing to one ‘s gender but was in fact much more unstable and interchangeable. Indeed, fagot theoreticians have since argued that the compartmentalization of gender is similarly flawed with Anne Fausto-Sterling reasoning that “male and female are non enough.” By dividing ‘them ‘ ( straight persons ) from ‘us ‘ ( homophiles and transexuals ) the fagot motion simply served to confirm the disconnected vision of mainstream society and to farther alienate homosexualism from mainstream civilization and, as a consequence, to reprobate fagot theory to a discernable subculture position. Consequently, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act – taken within the broader context of the worldwide civil rights motion of the 1960s – can be seen to be an of import milepost within the development of fagot theory as non merely did politicised society originate a clear spliting line between the homosexual and the heterosexual communities but besides the homosexual community itself was mostly responsible after this point for perpetuating this divide. In the concluding analysis therefore, it is hard to imagine this development as positive or progressive. Indeed, as Michael Botnick demonstrates below, this deficiency of consciousness on both sides of the historical argument resulted in a discernable deficiency of consensus by the bend of the millenary.
“The deficiency of open-mindedness toward complex and calibrated places makes it hard to obtain a full hearing of the issues, particularly if those issues are value loaded and cognitively unresolved to the audience ( by and large the populace at big, the province, major corporations or other mega-organisations such as the media. ) ”
At this point in the treatment, attending must travel off from the historiographic expression at the formation of the homosexual rights motion within the context of the late sixtiess to turn alternatively towards analysis of fagot theory in station war 20th century Britain. As has already been intimated, the development of fagot theory in the UK is per se tied to the coming of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. The unfairnesss conceptualised in this Act served to startle the homosexual community amid the broader background of a civil rights motion that was established in order to try to achieve para on the evidences of race, faith and gender every bit good as para on the evidences of gender. This broad multicultural influence is the key to understanding how the philosophy of fagot theory in station war Britain rapidly became divorced from the societal, cultural and political world of keeping a subcultural motion within the context of a broad democracy. It is surely no happenstance that the steering rule of fagot theory was inherently similar to the steering rule of the other civil rights motions of the era: all highlighted the false belief of utilizing individuality ( be it sexual, racial, spiritual or gender ) as a agency of organizing political society. All of these motions should hence be viewed as portion of a wider post-structuralist theory which advocated the terminal of individuality based upon gender, gender, race and faith in favor of following a more classless attack. In this manner, post-structuralist theory was acute to destruct the nexus between “dominant western signifiers of reason with male power and control over adult females and nature, which is associated with force, subjugation and destruction.”
Queer theory should be seen as an of import portion of this desire to deconstruct male-ordered politicised society and to retrace this society non along lines refering to individuality but along lines refering to humanity alternatively. In footings of consequences, the deconstruction of male-centric society can be seen to hold had a positive impact upon the merger of homosexual and heterosexual civilizations in station war Britain, surely after the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic in the United States rapidly became a world-wide manifestation of what Stan Cohen had in the 1970s referred to as ‘moral terror ‘ disseminated by an progressively powerful planetary mass media setup. Whereas the 1970s and the 1980s can be seen as a historical period of continuity with respects to the prolongation of sexuality-based unfairnesss in Britain, the 1990s on the other manus can be interpreted as a period of alteration – when the barriers constructed by male-ordered mainstream society were easy, yet clearly being eroded in obvious ways. Politicians, for case, in the 1990s were no longer punished in any touchable electoral manner for being ‘outed ‘ as homosexual. The briefly successful New Labour calling of Peter Mandelson is testimony to this development. Likewise in popular civilization where international stars such as George Michael ( who was afraid to acknowledge his gender in the 1980s ) have been able to boom in both the heterosexual and homosexual domains irrespective of their ain sexual penchants since the 1990s. The bend of the millenary besides witnessed a legal patterned advance refering cheery people and their civil rights with amendments to the Sexual Offences Act ( passed in 2003 ) in Britain finally giving rise to para with heterosexual people with respects to the age of consent. Indeed, it can be argued that the 2003 Sexual Offences Amendment Act is as cardinal and extended as the alterations which were telegraphed when the Theft Act ( 1968 ) replaced the antique Larceny Act ( 1916 ) . In the UK in the 20 first century the age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual people is at last set at 16, eventually seting to an terminal the decades-long association of homosexualism with contrariness and societal abnormalcy.
Yet, visual aspects can be delusory. While the 1990s and the first decennary of the 20 first century may look to be the morning of a new epoch of equality with respects to gender and gender, the world may in fact be better understood as a period of continuity with the sensed progresss of cheery people during this clip being nil more than a mirage as male-dominated society continues to give bit-by-bit grants to those marginalised elements of station modern civilization in order to keep the facade of a permissive modern-day society.
“It seems we ‘re an wholly more unfastened, more tolerant, sexier society – and it ‘s acquiring better all the clip. Or is it? Is mainstream civilization merely chat uping with a spot of the other in order to maintain us all on a loosely consecutive line? ”
This sense of fraudulence built-in refering fagot theory and socio-political world in the modern-day epoch has served to render fagot theory a philosophy of go oning importance in western civilization. Contemporary gender theoreticians such as Judith Butler ( who ‘s bookGender Troublewas published in 1990 merchandising over 100 000 transcripts internationally ) straight challenged the impression of gender ( and so gender ) as a agency of cultural individuality, traveling so far as to mention the creative activity of international feminism as the ground behind adult females ‘s go oning experience of inequality. Butler therefore called for a re-evaluation of fagot theory in visible radiation of the errors made by the assorted civil, gender and sexual rights motions of the sixtiess.
“The spheres of political and lingual ‘representation ‘ set out in progress the standard by which subjects themselves are formed, with the consequence that representation is extended merely to what can be acknowledged as a topic. In other words, the makings for being a topic must foremost be met before representation can be extended.”
Butler ‘s theory remains a basis for fagot theory in station war Britain as the parturiencies of the adult females ‘s since the passing of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1964 mostly mirrors the problems of the homosexual motion since the origin of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967. As a consequence there is a big organic structure of academic literature available that is dedicated to thwart theory and to puting modern-day fagot theory within the historiographical context of the homosexual experience in the past 40 old ages. Much of the commentary bequeathed by this organic structure of literature tends to underline the indispensable continuity that characterises the development of gender in Britain ( and so throughout the West ) since the sixtiess. Jeffrey Weeks, for illustration, sees this continuity as a symptom of modern-day society ‘s inability to grok gender within its correct ( and composite ) historical context.
“There is a battle for the hereafter of gender. But the ways we respond to this have been coloured by the force of the accrued historical heritage and sexual traditions out of which we have come: the Christian administration of belief in sex as sacramental and baleful, the libertarian belief of sex as insurgent, the broad belief of sex as beginning of individuality and personal resource, all rooted in a odds and ends of spiritual, scientific and sexological statements about what sex is, what it can make and what we must or must non make. We are weighed down with a existence of outlooks. Sex could be a potency for pick, alteration and diverseness. Alternatively we take it as fate, and all of us, adult females and work forces, homosexual and heterosexual, immature and old, black and white, are held in its bondage, and pay its expensive dues.”
Weeks ‘ compendious observations quoted supra could quite practicably have featured in his best merchandising book,Coming Out( originally published in 1977 ) such is the deficiency of touchable advancement made by mainstream society in the writer ‘s position. This is wholly due to the fact that the huge bulk of society has managed to hedge the true nature of the issue where gender is neither a ‘choice ‘ nor a ‘cross to bear ‘ but is alternatively a complex merger of the two. Weeks concludes that it is the really absence of a ‘right ‘ or ‘wrong ‘ reply with respects to the definition of gender that makes mainstream society unable to adequately face the issue of homosexualism even at the start of the 20 first century.
Of class, the issue of homosexualism has been greatly affected by the rise in significance ( at least in cultural footings ) of androgyny. Not merely has androgyny served to confound the bulk of mainstream society ( in so much as mainstream society has been instructed to believe in footings of black and white ; right and incorrect ) about the nature of homosexualism, the coming of bi-theory has telegraphed a split in fagot theory. Indeed, it is a common position of the bisexual community that traditional fagot theory “can be understood as a peculiarly deadly strain of the disease impacting modern-day theory more by and large, particularly in so far as it addresses gender as a cardinal concern in the pretense of ‘queer theory’.”
Therefore, the really term ‘queer ‘ is seen, ironically, as an sole phrase that implies that bisexual people, on history of their go oning sexual association with heterosexual people, are per se more allied to consecutive civilization than they are to the homosexual community. This split mirrors the divide in the feminist motion when a more extremist ‘second moving ridge ‘ of feminism “drew, in the first case, upon the theoretical Hagiographas of sapphic feminism in the early 1970’s” merely for the sapphic women’s rightist community to subsequently impeach the heterosexual women’s rightist community of ‘betrayal ‘ on the evidences that straight adult females continued to take part in sexual activity and engage in what Pateman footings ‘sexual contracts ‘ with work forces in the pretense of sex, matrimony, place and household. Further confusion has been added to this whirlpool with the coming of trans-theory and the increasing legal and political acknowledgment of trans-gender people, which has clearly impacted upon the development of fagot theory in station war Britain. Jason Cromwell sees this development as “making the seeable invisible” , which is in direct resistance to the rules of the homosexual community which has historically intended to do the unseeable seeable.
In add-on there are – non surprisingly – critics from the consecutive mainstream civilization who see queer theory as a barrier ( instead than a facilitator ) to a greater democratization of gender in the modern-day epoch. Critics argue that fagot surveies places excessively much accent upon distinction which, in bend, elevates the position of the homosexual and sapphic experience to a place that is over and above its true worth within the broader domain of cultural surveies. This lone serves to increase the gulf between the ‘included ‘ and the ‘excluded ‘ members of society. Furthermore, fagot theory has been challenged in a more direct manner as critics argue the primacy of the fagot belief that gender is non ‘fixed ‘ . Tim Edwards, for illustration, has late argued that sexual individuality is in fact much more stiff and compartmentalised than fagot theory suggests. Edwards does non hold with the premises made by, amongst others, Judith Butler and David Gauntlett who both show how, for case, the media has helped to solidify the building of individuality based upon gender and gender severally. Alternatively he argues that in existent footings gender and sexual individuality does non merely exist at the degree of discourse ( as argued by Butler ) but alternatively exists as “an institutional societal practice.”
It can be seen that fagot theory and its discontents have historically argued over ideological terrain refering to gender, gender and individuality with a discernable deficiency of consensus emerging from the resulting theoretical arguments. It is besides noticeable that the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 remains mostly conspicuous by its absence from the huge bulk of this theoretical argument with respects to thwart theory in station war Britain. Where the Act is mentioned, it tends to be referred to as a bit-by-bit political step that “proved repeatedly unsuccessful, mostly because of popular mobilization against restrictive changes.” Even in legal footings, the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 remains unfastened to charges of being a draconian, anachronic step by modern-day fagot theory as it was still deemed a condemnable offense for people under the age of 20 one to prosecute in homosexual activity. This merely served to outlaw the indispensable experimentalism inherent in immature people of both sexes and to perpetuate the association of homosexualism as a sordid and iniquitous matter.
A more of import watershed day of the month harmonizing to post war fagot theoreticians was the 1980s and the coming of the AIDS epidemic. Get downing on the west seashore of the United States and rapidly reassigning over the Atlantic to Britain and Western Europe, the AIDS epidemic was an epidemic more in footings of the consequence that it had upon mainstream, consecutive civilization than the medical consequence that the virus had upon the human race. Looking back on the media texts and images of the clip, one can surely see how the disease was blown out of all proportion to its true danger. Furthermore, it is apparent to see that this was due to the sexual nature of the unwellness and, specifically, the fact that it had begun in the homosexual community. Once more, hence, cheery work forces were accused of taking a hedonic life style – the deficiency of the pattern of safe sex being the starting point for the spreading of the disease. The AIDS epidemic besides served to re-ignite traditional Christian philosophy that was – and remains – vehemently opposed to the legalization and democratization of homosexualism. Hard-line Christian militants even went so far as to claim that the AIDS virus was God ‘s penalty to all society for leting cheery people the right to pattern their seamy gender in mainstream civilization. The combined consequence of this craze served to do the 1980s – as opposed to 1967 – the cardinal day of the month in fagot theory in station war Britain. As Jeffrey Weeks declares, “the homophobia that was encouraged by AIDS demanded, and in fact greatly strengthened, sapphic and cheery identities.”
With this in head, attending must now be turned towards making a decision as to the significance of 1967 within the broader treatment of the democratization of gender in station war Britain.
“That some people have decided penchants does non look to be in uncertainty. What is now fast disappearance is the myriad of ways in which assorted human societies have managed to get by with the fact.”
As Naphy competently suggests, the rate at which homosexualism has been integrated into mainstream civilization should be judged within the much wider context of western civilization over the past two thousand old ages as opposed to the 40 old ages that have passed since the origin of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967. Ultimately, although advancement refering the democratization of homosexualism may hold met many obstructions in a assortment of different pretenses – be they legal, political, societal, spiritual or cultural – there can non be any uncertainty that the homosexual community landscape has changed beyond all acknowledgment in Britain since the terminal of the sixtiess. Furthermore, it would be hard to establish an statement against 1967 being the cardinal twelvemonth within this development of fagot theory in modern Britain as this was the day of the month that marked the beginning of the hardening of a trans-national homosexual motion every bit good as the terminal of the historical marginalization of homophiles within the broader context of mainstream society.
The fact that the fruits of this double, self-generated realization did non instantly happen in the signifier of a democratization of gender should non be seen as a great surprise. Like the adult females ‘s motion of the same epoch, there can be small uncertainty that the legal steps passed by parliament such as the Sex Discrimination Act served merely to hold the progress of adult females ‘s rights as the motion necessarily splintered on affairs refering to race, political orientation and – progressively – gender. In this manner, the sapphic docket became progressively divorced from the mainstream women’s rightist docket in the same manner that the bisexual docket has become perceptibly more counter towards fagot theory and the homosexual community. It can be argued that this is nil more than an inevitable byproduct of a post-industrial capitalist society that has made a cultural and economic trade good of sex and gender to such a grade as to destabilize the solidarity of the planetary homosexual and adult females ‘s motions worldwide. Therefore, being a political every bit good as a sexual activity, homosexualism has been ( and will stay ) both historically and theoretically profoundly influenced by the societal, political and economic environment in which it is culturally defined.
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Homosexualities in Post War Britain:
The Democratisation of Gender after the Sexual Offences Act ( 1967 ) and How It Affects Queer Studies
Gender and Society in Britain and Europe, c.1500 to the Present