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Sexualities & Gender

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This research cluster brings together people interested and involved in research on sexuality and/or gender, primarily in the Cardiff University School of Social Sciences but including, also, interested people from other schools and departments. We come from a diverse range of disciplinary backgrounds and theoretical approaches and are working towards developing our inter-/cross-disciplinary understandings of gender, sexuality and the relationship between them.

We take sexuality as much more broadly understood than simply 'sex' or 'sexual relationships'. It is our premise that:

Sexuality is not the property of an individual and is not a hormonally or biologically given, inherent quality. Rather sexual cultures and sexual meanings are constructed through a range of discursive practices across social institutions. ... Thus, when we talk about 'sexuality' we are talking about a whole assemblage of heterogeneous practices, techniques, habits, dispositions, forms of training and so on that govern things like dating and codes of dress in particular situations. (Debbie Epstein, Sarah O'Flynn and David Telford, 2003, Silenced Sexualities in Schools and Universities. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books, page 3)

At one level, gender may seem much more susceptible to definition. It has, traditionally, been said that while sex is biological (one is male or female), gender is social and cultural. But recent theorists, following Judith Butler and including some of our members, see biological sex and gender as inextricably mixed and both, in some senses at least, culturally constructed and performative. Some, indeed, question the usefulness of 'gender' as a category. Nevertheless, we do talk about 'gender' and are interested in the difference that gender makes in a variety of sites from the workplace and school to popular culture and literary texts.

Research in the school on aspects of sexuality and gender has been funded by, amongst others, the:

  • ACCAC (the Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales)
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • General Teaching Council (Wales)
  • Nuffield Foundation, the Home Office

Staff and graduate students in the School are involved in research and scholarship in the following areas:

  • University of Wales
  • Welsh Assembly
  • Welsh Office of Research and Development
  • Research within the cluster includes work on:
  • Childhood sexualities
  • Embodiment
  • Femininities and masculinities
  • Feminist theory
  • Mainstreaming gender and sexuality policies
  • Gender and education
  • Gender and identity
  • Gender and social policy
  • Gender, sexuality and work
  • Queer theory
  • Sexuality, crime and criminal justice
  • Sexuality and education
  • Sexuality and gender in popular culture
  • Sexuality, gender and race/ethnicity
  • Sexualities, gender and violence, discrimination and harassment
  • Sexual identities

We are interested in hearing from potential doctoral students with interests in these areas.


We meet once a month, from 12:45-2pm, on the third Wednesday of every month during term time, in room -1.79 Glamorgan Building. At these meetings we discuss our work-in-progress, readings, develop research projects and so on. The group is open to all staff and PG research students in the School of Social Sciences and to those in other Faculties and Schools who share our interests. However, as it is a working group, we would like members to make a commitment to coming on a fairly regular basis and to sharing their work. Contact Dr. Sara MacBride-Stewart or Sarah Hayes for further details or to be added onto the mailing list.

Research in the News

Research on pre-teen experiences of sexism and sexual harrassment receives national press attention. Read more

Gender and Sexualities Research Group Events 2014

Wednesday 8th January, 1-2 (joint with childhood and youth research group, room -1.31, Glamorgan Building)

Speaker: Professor Emma Renold (SOCSI)

“We pretended to be cousins/I need a boyfriend to protect me”: exploring the diversity of children’s talk about young boyfriend-girlfriend cultures

Further info: This presentation will reflect on some of the key findings from a recently completed research project, “Girls and boys speak out: a qualitative study of children’s gender and sexual cultures (age 10-12)”. This was an exploratory research study to inform the National Assembly for Wales' Cross-Party Group on Children, Sexuality, Sexualisation and Equalities.

Wednesday 29th January, 1-2 (room -1.31, Glamorgan Building)

Speaker: Dr. Alison Parken (SOCSI)

Equal Pay: The job's not done!

Further info: This seminar will look at the gendered structuring of the labour market and the consequence of this on gender pay disparities in Wales. It will be based on research being undertaken in the WAVE project.

Wednesday 26th February, 1-2.30 (room -1.31, Glamorgan Building)

Speakers: Helen Smith, Jordanne Sims, Gianna Tomassi, Elinor Beynon.

From women’s roller-derby to sexism on campus: socsi undergraduates present their gender and sexuality research

Further info: This session invites dissertation students focusing on gender and/or sexuality to share their research findings with the sexualities and gender research group. The session will be open to any second year students interested in pursuing a third year dissertation topic with gender/sexuality as a central focus.

Wednesday 26th March, 12-2.00 (room TBC, Glamorgan Building)

Symposium: Researching sexuality and violence: inter-disciplinary encounters

Speakers: Dr. Amanda Kidd, Sion Tetlow and Dr. Garthine Walker

'Rape, Desire and Culpability in England and Wales, c.1500-c.1800'

(Dr. Garthine Walker, Cardiff School of History, Archaeology & Religion)

Grooming the 'Beauty Girl'; Symbolic violence in and outside the beauty therapy training salon

(Dr. Amanda Kidd, Research Associate, SOCSI)

Wednesday 30th April 1-2 (room -1.31, Glamorgan Building)

Symposium: Men, masculinities and sexualities: intersections and difference

Speakers: Heather Panter, Victoria Silverwood, Steve Meredith (TBC) (PhD Students, SOCSI),

Wednesday 28th May 1-2 (room -1.31, Glamorgan Building)

Symposium: Theoretical knots: researching gender and sexual subjectivities

Speakers: Ian Thomas, Josie Austin and Jennie Smith (Phd Students, SOCSI)

Wednesday 25th June: 1-2.30 (room -1.31, Glamorgan Building)

The Politics of Children's Fashion: girls and their 'troublesome' bodies

Speaker: Dr. Jane Pilcher (University of Leicester)

Further info: In this paper, I explore aspects of the contemporary politics of children’s fashions. I use examples of controversies, campaigns, official reports and policy outcomes from several countries, including, in the UK, the Bailey Review (2011).  Drawing from a UK study, I also present data on children’s views on fashion trends, on the negotiations that take place between mothers and daughters aged 12 and under as to what gets bought and where its worn. I show that whilst concern about the ‘sexualisation of childhood’ is core to the contemporary politics of children’s fashions, girls themselves give a range of contingent and contradictory meanings for their interest in ‘contested’ clothing, and they also disclose anxieties about and disapproval of 'showing the body' through the wearing of 'revealing’ clothing. It is necessary, then, to differentiate carefully between adults’ views as to the ‘sexualization’ of children’s bodies through clothing fashions, and the experiences and understandings of children themselves. Finally, I argue that, revealing as it is about dominant conceptualizations of childhood, sexuality and intergenerational relations, the recent politics of children’s fashions also needs to be recognised as fundamentally gendered. Within the politics of children’s fashions, as in other areas of social and cultural life, both historically and contemporaneously, it is girls and their ‘troublesome bodies’ (Smart 1995) that are constructed as especially problematic.

Friday  11th July

DAY CONFERENCE: Girls and Boys Speak Out: bodies, media and relationship

Venue: University Hall

Time: 9.30-3.30

Past events

30/06/2011 ESRC Seminar series: 'Pornified? Complicating the debates about the sexualisation of culture': Seminar 5:  Girls, Sexuality and Sexualisation: Beyond spectacle and sensationalism