Skip to main content

What is Sexual History?



What is Sexual History?

Jeffrey Weeks

ISBN: 978-0-745-68025-5 April 2016 Polity 180 Pages

Download Product Flyer

Download Product Flyer

Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description. Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description. Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description. Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description.


Until the 1970s the history of sexuality was a marginalized practice. Today it is a flourishing field, increasingly integrated into the mainstream and producing innovative insights into the ways in which societies shape and are shaped by sexual values, norms, identities and desires. In this book, Jeffrey Weeks, one of the leading international scholars in the subject, sets out clearly and concisely how sexual history has developed, and its implications for our understanding of the ways we live today.

The emergence of a new wave of feminism and lesbian and gay activism in the 1970s transformed the subject, heavily influenced by new trends in social and cultural history, radical sociological insights and the impact of Michel Foucault’s work. The result was an increasing emphasis on the historical shaping of sexuality, and on the existence of many different sexual meanings and cultures on a global scale. With chapters on, amongst others, lesbian, gay and queer history, feminist sexual history, the mainstreaming of sexual history, and the globalization of sexual history, What is Sexual History? is an indispensable guide to these developments.

  • Contents
  • Preface and Acknowledgements
  • An Introduction
  • What is a History of Sexuality a History of?
  • Narratives
  • Summary of Book
  • Chapter 1: Framing Sexual History
  • Towards a Critical Sexual History
  • Theoretical Detours
  • Bodies
  • Subjectivities and Affect
  • Generations
  • Times Present, Times Past, Times Future
  • Chapter 2: The Invention of Sexual History
  • The Magic of Words
  • The Natural History of Sexuality
  • The New History
  • The Emergence of Social Constructionism
  • Chapter 3: Querying and Queering Same-sex History
  • What is Homosexual History?
  • Recovering the Gay and Lesbian Past, and Historic Present
  • Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Homosexual
  • The Queer Challenge
  • Beyond the Binary
  • Making Connections
  • Chapter 4: Gender, Sexuality and Power
  • Dangers and Pleasures
  • Sexual Violence and Sexual History
  • Historicizing Female Sexuality
  • Sexuality and the Theory Wars
  • Rethinking Power
  • Intersections
  • On Manliness, Masculinity, and Men
  • Chapter 5: Mainstreaming Sexual History
  • Into the Mainstream
  • The Birth of Modern Sexuality?
  • The Normalization of Heterosexuality
  • The Great Transition
  • AIDS and the Burdens of History
  • Same-sex Marriage and New Patterns of Intimacy
  • Chapter 6: The Globalization of Sexual History
  • Globalizing Sexual History
  • Historians and Transnational Sexual History
  • Patterns of Sexual History
  • The Colonial Legacy and the Postcolonial Critique
  • Sexual Regimes, Sexual Lives
  • History and Human Sexual Rights
  • Chapter 7: Memory, Community, Voice
  • Unofficial Knowledges and Counter-history
  • Memory and Community
  • The Sexual Archive
  • Voice
  • Living Sexual History
  • Suggestions for Further Reading
  • Notes
  • Index

‘For over forty years, with flawless erudition, Jeffrey Weeks has been leading us through the exciting history of the shifting meanings, manners, conflicts and victories around sexual intimacies. In this elegantly succinct overview we can learn all we need to know about debates surrounding the continuing complexities of people’s ability to flaunt and enjoy their sexual desires. An essential guide for everyone.’
Lynne Segal, Birkbeck, University of London

‘This is a learned, ecumenical, broad-ranging, elegantly written and altogether engaging account of the history of sexuality. No student or general reader could want a better-informed, more thoughtful and generous guide to the field than Jeffrey Weeks. Most importantly this book shows that the history of sexuality illuminates not only contemporary debates but the ways we understand our past more generally.’
Thomas Laqueur, University of California, Berkeley