Source: The Hunting Ground

On February the 27th, the Gender and Sexualities Research Forum hosted a screening of The Hunting Ground – a powerful and harrowing documentary on sexual violence on US campuses and institutional failure to support affected students. Although a difficult watch, those attended were moved by the powerful stories told by survivors and by those campaigning for change. After the film, talks by Alison Phipps (University of Sussex) and Carrie-Anne Myers (City University London) discussed the film and how the issues relate to the UK. You can read more about Alison Phipps insightful review of the film here. Both speakers noted sexual harassment and bullying of women and sexual and gender minorities is rife on British campuses.

There was agreement that universities need to do more at the level of policy and to be part of a broader social effort to dismantle pernicious gendered cultures like “laddism”. We were very happy to hear from an audience member from the Sexual Respect group at the University of Kent about the important work being done there to prevent sexual violence on campus and to better support student survivors.

Feminist and Queer Methodologies Workshop

On the 2nd of Dec, we were lucky to hold a feminist and queer methodologies workshop run by Dr Róisín Ryan-Flood. It proved to be a hugely popular event – with all spaces quickly filling up and a great turn-out on the day.

Róisín delivered an engaging lecture on feminist research ethics and epistemology, considering issues such as power relationships in research, the politics of representation and reflexivity. We also heard a fascinating story from her own research on the question of keeping participants’ secrets and when to choose silence over voice – a theme explored in her co-edited book (with Rosalind Gill) Silence and Secrecy in the Research Process: Feminist Reflections. 

In the second part of the workshop, all attendees had a chance to consider the ethical issues surrounding their own research and reflect on these together as a group. We left feeling inspired and very thankful for Róisín’s insights and interest in our work!


A huge thank-you to everyone who made it such a great event, and especially to Róisín!

For all those who are interested or were unable to attend the workshop, Róisín has kindly shared the slides and references used in the lecture. You can download the slides from this link: Feminist and queer methods workshop – Ryan-Flood.

See below for the reference list, many of which can also be found in Silence and Secrecy in the Research Process: Feminist Reflections


Finch, J. (1983) ‘It’s great to have someone to talk to’: ethics and politics of interviewing women’. In Bell, C. & Roland, H. (eds) Social Researching: Politics, Problems, Practice. London: Routledge.

Gilbert, M. (1994) ‘The Politics of Location: Doing Feminist Research at “Home”’, Professional Geographer, 46(1): 90-96.

Katz, C. (1994) ‘Playing the Field: Questions of Fieldwork in Geography’, Professional Geographer, 46(1): 67-72.

Kirsch, G. E. (1999) Ethical Dilemmas in Feminist Research: The politics of location, interpretation and publication. New York: SUNY.

Kulick, D. & Wilson, M. (Eds.) (1995) Taboo: Sex, Identity and Erotic Subjectivity in Anthropological Fieldwork. London: Routledge.

Lorde, A. (1984) ‘The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action’. In Lorde, A. Sister Outsider. California: The Crossing Press Feminist Series.

Maynard, M. & Purvis, J. (1994) Researching Women’s Lives from a Feminist Perspective. London: Taylor & Francis.

Mullings, B. (1999) ‘Insider or outsider, both or neither: some dilemmas of interviewing in a cross-cultural setting’, Geoforum, 30 (4): 337-50.

Newton, E. (1993) ‘My Best Informant’s Dress: The Erotic Equation in Fieldwork’, Cultural Anthropology, 8(1): 3-23.

Roberts, H. (ed) (1991) Doing Feminist Research. London: Routledge.

Patai, D. (1991) ‘US academics and Third World women: is ethical research possible?’ In Gluck, S. & Patai, D. (eds) Women’s Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History. London: Routledge.

Ryan-Flood, R. & Gill, R. (eds.) (2010) Secrecy and Silence in the Research Process: Feminist Reflections. London: Routledge.

Ryan-Flood, R. & Rooke, A. (eds.) (2009) ‘Que(e)rying Methodology: Lessons and Dilemmas from Lesbian Lives’ [journal special issue], Journal of Lesbian Studies, 13(2).

Spronk, R. (2011) ‘Beyond Pain, Towards Pleasure in the Study of Sexuality in Africa’, in Lyons, A. P. & Lyons, H. D. (Eds.) Sexualities in Anthropology: A Reader. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Last Friday 30th October 2015, I was lucky to attend and present at the ‘Feminist Research Methodologies: Challenges and Negotiations’ conference for postgraduate students at Sheffield Hallam University, brilliantly organized by PhD student Rachel Handforth. The atmosphere was just perfect: warm and supportive, challenging and inspiring – with papers offering stimulating insights from multiple disciplines and feminisms (see programme here). And on top of that a fantastic keynote by Jessica Ringrose (UCL Institute of Education) on ‘Boning up on Impact: Feminist intra-activist research assemblages’!

In my paper titled ‘Interrogating commercial women’s media: A solidary-critical feminist approach’, I explored some ethico-political issues and dilemmas pertaining to the analysis of 64 interviews I have conducted with editors and writers of women’s magazines. Drawing on integrated principles from the feminist ethics of care (e.g., Carol Gilligan 1983) and intention (Val Gillies & Pam Alldred 2012), along with Ros Gill’s (2007) notion of ‘critical respect’, I advanced a ‘solidary-critical’ approach as useful for my study, but also other social science research, with interests ranging from the practices of ‘cool corporations’ (Jim McGuigan 2009) to social justice activism. I likewise argued that in the contemporary heterogeneous terrain of reinvigorated and emergent feminisms, solidary-critical interventions have much to offer.


Gill, R. (2007) Critical Respect: The Difficulties and Dilemmas of Agency and ‘Choice’ for Feminism: A Reply to Duits and van Zoonen. European Journal of Women’s Studies 14(1): 69–80.

Gilligan, C. (1983) In A Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gillies, V., and Alldred, P. (2012) The Ethics of Intention: Research as a Political Tool. In M. Mauthner, M. Birch, J. Jessop, & T. Miller (Eds.), Ethics in Qualitative Research. Second edition. London: SAGE.

McGuigan, J. (2009) Cool Capitalism. London: Pluto.

Last June, Ros Gill and Jo Littler were in Dublin for the international Console-ing Passions 2015 conference. Ros presented a paper co-authored by Christina Scharff and Ana Sofia Elias from King’s, articulating a new perspective on aesthetic labour. Jo presented a paper on the mumpreneur which considered the gendering of neoliberalism and the meanings of the meritocratic entrepreneur.

Online Misogyny and Sexual Harassment GSRF Event

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On June 17 2015, the GSRF organised a seminar to discuss the topical issue of online misogyny and harassment. We heard from three diverse and interesting speakers researching in this area: Dr Olga Jurasz (Open University), Mark McGlashan (Lancaster University) and Carl Miller from Demos (see below for speakers’ details). The seminar was chaired by Laura Thompson, who is studying at City University for a PhD on the sexual harassment of women over online dating services.

We had a lively discussion on a number of topics, including the role of the law and community policing in addressing online misogyny. Discussions also took place on Twitter using the hashtag #GSRFmisogyny. Here are just some of the Tweets from the event:

We look forward to furthering our Twitter engagement at future events. You can follow us at @GSRF_City.


Event Synopsis:

Online spaces such as blogs, forums and Twitter are invaluable resources for feminist communities. However, due to its nature, the Internet also expands the space available for misogynistic discourses to spread and be heard and – as the cases of Caroline Criado-Perez and Mary Beard demonstrate – provides an outlet for ‘trolls’ to enact vitriolic attacks on women who publicly voice their opinions. Whilst encouraging progress has been made in increasing public and corporate awareness, we still have much to learn about this problem and about how we can start to tackle it. This seminar will discuss new research into the online harassment of women and explore how academic work can start to answer some of these questions. Topics up for discussion include: what methods can we use to track harassment on large social media platforms? What is the role of the law in addressing cyber-hate against women? What would a more ethical Internet look like and how might this be achieved?


Olga Jurasz (Open University):  “Online Misogyny and Social Media: A Challenge for (Legal) Regulation”

Olga Jurasz is a lecturer in law at the Open University Law School. Her main research interests are public international law, human rights and legal regulation of gender-based violence. She has been recently working on a collaborative project addressing gender, cyberviolence and law.

Carl Miller (Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Demos): “Researching Misogyny on Twitter”

Carl Miller is the Research Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos. It is the first British think tank unit dedicated to researching and understanding the digital world.  He develops new ways of understanding social media as a new part of social and political life. He wrote a weekly column on digital politics for The Sunday Times and is a social media commentator for Sky.  He is a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College, London.


On May 8, the GSRF co-organised the 8th annual event for the Language, Gender and Sexuality Special Interest Group of the British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL). The event was hosted at City University and chaired by Lia Litosseliti and Rosalind Gill. It was a fantastic day with a diverse line-up of speakers engaged with various academic disciplines, the women’s sector, and feminist activism.

The event was titled “Deconstructing sexism: What can we learn from different approaches and disciplines?”, guided by the general interest in building bridges – both theoretically and methodologically speaking – between gender and language studies, and feminist cultural studies, sociology and social psychology, while also considering activism in this area. A key aim was to explore how we might learn from each other to better deconstruct, comprehend and resist contemporary gender ideologies and permutations of sexism.

The event also aimed to open discussion about how we might advance innovative interdisciplinary approaches to the complex workings of power and ideology in discourse and reinvigorate intersectional feminist politics. Speakers addressed these questions at all three levels of theory, empirical research and feminist practice/activism. There was plenty of lively discussion throughout the day and on Twitter via the hashtag 

See below for the full list of speakers. You can also click here for the full event programme and abstracts 



PAUL BAKER (Lancaster University): ‘A woman who knows her place’: Heterosexual Men Seeking Relationships and Sexist Discourse
STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI (No More Page 3, and author of ‘Communicating with Kids’): Page 3 – Sexual Harassment and the Myth of Empowerment
ELISABETH KELAN (Cranfield University): ‘I’ve never encountered that’ – Accounting for Sexism in Modern Workplaces
JULIA LONG (Anglia Ruskin University) and JODIE WOODWARD (Women’s Sector): Consent or Dissent? Reinforcing Heterosexuality in Programmes Addressing Men’s Violence Against Women
SARA MILLS (Sheffield Hallam University): The Struggle for Sexism
LYNNE SEGAL (Birkbeck College, University of London): Feminist Mutations: Possibilities & Pitfalls when Tackling Sexism
STEPHANIE TAYLOR (Open University): Avoiding Trouble? A Narrative-Discursive Approach to Sexism and Women’s Identity Work 



Special thanks goes to Gabriella Caminotto and Laura Garcia-Favaro for all their hard work in making the day such a success!


On January 30 2015, Laura García-Favaro presented a paper entitled “The ‘truth’ cannot be sexist?: Postfeminist biologism in transnational technologies of mediated intimacy”. This was part of the Critical Sexology Seminar ‘Feminist Encounters with Evolutionary Psychology’, which was convened by Rachel O’Neill and took place at King’s College London.

This seminar examined the social life of evolutionary psychology from feminist perspectives, bringing into focus the historical, cultural, and political continuities between evolutionary psychology and contemporary postfeminism. With contributions from Professor Deborah Cameron (University of Oxford), Dr Celia Roberts (Lancaster University) and Laura García-Favaro (City University London), discussions facilitated at this event explored questions such as: In what ways do evolutionary narratives contribute to the naturalisation of sexual difference that has become a pervasive feature of postfeminist media culture? How, in particular, do evolutionary and biological logics manifest within and across sites of mediated intimacy, from Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus to Fifty Shades of Grey? Further, how might narratives from evolutionary psychology serve to consolidate market-orientated approaches to sex and relationships being elaborated under contemporary capitalism? Can the persistence of evolutionary psychology as a framework for understanding social life be mapped onto the broader conjuncture of neoliberalism? Are there unexamined continuities between evolutionary psychology and neoliberal rationalities, particularly with regard discourses of individualism, hierarchy, and meritocracy? Finally, how can feminists negotiate the double complexity of evolutionary psychology as both an academic field and a repository of popular narratives of gender and sexuality as they attempt to challenge relations of inequality and oppression? (O’Neill, 2014)

BDSM and Popular Culture GSRF Event

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This was a session organized by the Gender & Sexualities Research Forum (GSRF) at City University London on October 22 2014. Speakers Ummni Khan and Meg John Barker provided some fascinating insights into how BDSM is often constructed in mainstream sex advice and fictional narratives like the Fifty Shades of Grey series.


Ummni Khan

Perverts In The Spotlight: How SM Subculture Becomes Palatable Pop Culture

While sadomasochism (SM) may be considered taboo, pop culture has frequently represented SM dynamics and desires in its narratives.  Yet SM’s entertainment and ideological function is not uniform.  In fictional narratives, SM has been deployed for various and divergent reasons such as to increase suspense, amplify erotic tension, warn of its corrupting influence on ‘normal’ people, reveal the damaged mental state of a character, add a comic element to a scene, advertise its naughty pleasures and moralize against its seductive allure.  From 9 /12 Weeks to Fifty Shades of Grey, this interactive workshop will map out SM as an evolving and ambivalent signifier.  While the significance of SM is not stable, we will explore which SM arrangements are depicted as acceptable – and even desirable – and which are rendered abject and beyond the pale.

Ummni Khan (M.A., J.D., LL.M., S.J.D.) is an Associate Professor at Carleton University in the Department of Law and Legal Studies.  Her research focuses on the construction and regulation of stigmatized sexual practices, with a particular focus on BDSM and sex work.  Her book, Vicarious Kinks: Sadomasochism in the Socio-Legal Imaginary (2014), examines the ways that criminal regulation of consensual SM rests on problematic ideological claims that engage with psychiatry, anti-pornography feminism, and pop culture. She is currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Centre for Gender and Sexuality Law.

Meg John Barker

BDSM and Consent in Sex Advice

With the increasing cultural awareness of BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission and Sadomasochism), particularly following the popular Fifty Shades of Grey series, mainstream sex advice media has begun to include considerations of kinky practices. This presentation explores the ways in which BDSM and kink are presented in sex advice, in comparison to other sexual practices. One notable feature is that consent is often emphasised in relation to BDSM sex when there is little mention of it in relation to other kinds of sex. The presentation explores the different constructions of consent across general sex advice (books and websites) compared to sex advice and discussion emerging from BDSM and kink communities themselves.Dr. Meg John Barker is a writer, academic, counsellor and activist specialising in sex and relationships. Meg is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University and has published many academic books and papers on topics including non-monogamous relationships, sadomasochism, counselling, and mindfulness, as well as co-editing the journal Psychology & Sexuality. They are involved in running many public events on sexuality and relationships, including Sense about Sex, Critical Sexology, and Gender & Sexuality Talks. Meg’s 2013 book Rewriting the Rules is a friendly guide love, sex and relationships, and they blog about these matters on Twitter: megbarkerpsych.

For our last event of the 2014 academic year, we had Carolina Matos and Simidele Dosekun deliver two fantastic talks on gender politics and postfeminism from a global perspective.  The event marked the end of a successful first year for the Gender and Sexualities Research Forum, and the discussion and talks at the wine reception afterwards generated plenty of ideas for new event topics for the coming year.  See the event flyer for more information about the speakers’ fascinating research.