Future Sex

What does gender mean in an age defined by post-feminist ideologies, and in cultures that have been ‘sexualised’? Women may have been gaining economic, social and cultural entitlements in recent years, but post-Fordist economies continue to exploit gender inequalities. And whilst a variety of ‘new femininities’ have promised freedoms and opportunities, they have also articulated further responsibilities associated with being a woman in the twenty-first century. Similarly, the increasing visibility of so-called ‘softer’ masculinities and the continuing appeal of the metrosexual man seem to signal transformations in the idea of what it means to be a man. Yet such opportunities for softness and flexibility are unevenly available in economic conditions designed to install an equality of inequality. If men are becoming softer and women more post-feminist, how are we to understand the position of queer identities? Is homosexuality ‘disappearing’ in the drive towards homonormativity? Is there a place for gender dissent in lesbian and gay cultures, or do challenges to binary constructions of gender and domestic nuclearity no longer have any meaning in an era of gay marriage?

Future Sex brings together a range of speakers from media, cultural and literary studies, and sociology to consider the question of gender in neoliberalism. Topics under discussion will include the nature of the acceptable phallus, sex advice, competition and modern man, mum’s lit, the future of the sissy, gender and sex on MTV, and how women’s labour is performed.

Confirmed speakers: Ros Gill, Bev Skeggs, Andrew Branch, Julia Dane, Roberta Garrett, Catherine Harper, Stephen Maddison.

Venue: Room EB.2.44, East Building, University of East London, Docklands Campus

The event is free but registration is required in advance and places are limited. Please contact either Andrew Branch (a.r.branch@uel.ac.uk) or Stephen Maddison (s.maddison@uel.ac.uk), the seminar conveners, to confirm your attendance.

Professor Bev Skeggs
Bev’s research interests consolidate around the issue of value and values. How do we know what value and values are? What do they do? Bev only realized this was her central concern recently when she was asked to summarise her work and noticed that all her research has been framed around these issues. Hence value/s has led her through issues of class and gender formation, an exploration of symbolic value through media and cultural formations; using feminist and poststructuralist theory, Pierre Bourdieu and to the economic abstractions of Marx, to help her understand. Bev’s still working on this topic (it is her life’s work), currently attempting to understand how value moves on, through and with people as they live the imperatives of exchange in capitalism. But, more significantly, what remains beyond exchange? What matters to people? How do they formulate value/s beyond economic perceptions? Bev has been developing the idea of ‘person value’ through ‘value struggles’ to understand how different forms of de/valued personhood are lived. In July 2011 she became the joint managing editor of the journal Sociological Review, a major journal which has just celebrated 100 years of shaping the field and became, in 2003, an elected Academician of the Academy of the Learned Societies for the Social Sciences. Bev’s paper is titled, ‘Performing one’s value in public; the sensual spectacle of women’s labour’.

Professor Ros Gill

Rosalind Gill completed her PhD in Social Psychology at the Discourse and Rhetoric Group (DARG), Loughborough University in 1991, and has since worked across a number of disciplines including Sociology, Gender Studies and Media and Communications. She has been based at Goldsmiths College, the Open University and spent 10 years at the LSE before moving to King’s College London to take up a position as Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis in 2010. Ros’ current research interests centre around the following themes: cultural and creative work; media and popular culture; discursive, narrative, visual and psychosocial approaches and gender and sexuality. Ros, and her colleagues Laura Harvey and Meg Baker, will be discussing mediated sex advice in magazines, self-help texts, on TV and online.

Dr Andrew Branch
Andrew is a member of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research and the London East Research Institute. His current research focus is on the representations of social class by those media which seek to regulate its hierarchical structure. He is particularly interested in how working-class youth subjectivities are embodied, formulated and negotiated in this respect and how cultural geography can help us explore specific sites of cultural incubation. Andrew’s working paper is titled, ‘In it to win it’ and will allow him to discuss his current project on sexuality and the making of modern men. His website is located at: www.andrewbranch.org.uk

Dr Julia Dane

Having obtained a degree in Psychosocial Studies at UEL, Julia conducted her Postgraduate research in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths College, London. Julia’s research interests are around media representation of gender and sexuality. In particular, she is interested in teenage girls’ engagement with contemporary discourses of femininity. Julia has taught Media and Advertising at UEL since 2006, with a focus on representation and audience/consumer research. Julia’s paper is titled, ‘How low can you go? Gender and sexuality in MTV’s The Valleys’.

Dr Roberta Garrett
Roberta teaches Literature and Cultural Studies at UEL. She has published a book on postmodern cinema and women’s film (Postmodern Chick-Flicks, Palgrave, 2007) and is currently working on representations of parenting and family culture in neoliberalism. Roberta will be discussing novels and children in the form of mum lit and the public mother.

Professor Catherine Harper

Catherine started as the new Dean of the School of Arts and the Digital Industries in October 2011. She has led Architecture and Design at the University of Brighton for five years, with previous academic, research and management experience at the University for the Creative Arts, the University of the Arts, Goldsmiths College and the University of Ulster. Originally a visual arts and textiles practitioner, she has specialised in public commissions, installation and performance, undertaking artist residencies in Ireland, Canada and the Czech Republic. She now writes on textiles, is UK editor of Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture, and sits on the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education. Her first book was published by Berg in 2007, and her third, Fabrics of Desire, will be delivered in late 2012. A member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College and an Arts Council Advisor, Catherine is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and sits on the International Committee for Fashion in Fiction. Catherine’s paper is titled, ‘The acceptable phallus…’.

Dr Stephen Maddison
Stephen is a member of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research at UEL and of the On/Scenity AHRC-Funded Research Network, and co-runs the website OpenGender where you can read many of his articles and chapters, as well as writing by colleagues on sexuality, gender and neoliberalism. Stephen’s research addresses questions of sexuality and gender, cultural politics and popular culture. He is currently working on two major projects, one on the materialism of pornography, and one on the author Philip Pullman. Pornography is the world’s most prolific and profitable culture industry, with a social impact beyond the tens of thousands of porn films and sites produced each year. Stephen’s work on pornography has appeared in several major collections, including Mainstreaming Sex (2009), Porn.com (2010) and Hard to Swallow (2011). Philip Pullman is the hugely successful author of the His Dark Materials Trilogy, and is a prominent cultural commentator. Stephen’s research, undertaken collaboratively with Dr Christine Butler, addresses notions of childhood, education, agency and bourgeois dissent in the context of neoliberalism. Stephen’s paper is titled, ‘Is the future sissy?’