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The discursive production of homosexual regulation

The discursive production of homosexual regulation
The discursive production of homosexual regulation
This thesis explores the pivotal place of the 1885 Labouchère Amendment and the 1967 Sexual Offences Act in the discourse of homosexual regulation presented by 20th century homophile histories. These twin events of ‘criminalisation’ and ‘decriminalisation’ are revisited to explore how and why they occurred and how they came to assume such a central position in both academic and popular understanding. The thesis draws on two streams of evidence. The literature on homosexual regulation is examined to establish the claims that are made about Labouchère Amendment and the Sexual Offences Act and the place that they are accorded, and the relationship that is established between them, within widely accepted homophile histories of the UK. Alongside this, primary sources – in the form of parliamentary debates, government papers, newspaper archives, and biographies – are interrogated to unpick the motivations and intentions of those involved in these pieces of legislation and to position them within a wider historical context.

The thesis argues that this literature on homosexual regulation contributed to and institutionalised a homophile discourse geared especially towards establishing a history of what specific events might mean for political imperatives of the time and future prospects of homosexual communities. I will suggest that this led to uncritical acceptance of particular interpretations of the Labouchère Amendment and the Sexual Offences Act, which were reproduced over time and thus established as ‘truths’ within academia, the gay community and the wider public. Whilst some authors have recently subsequently questioned the importance of the Labouchère Amendment in the process of criminalisation (e.g. Cocks, 2003:17) these accounts have by-passed this event altogether, rather than offering an alternative account for its passage. Consequently, they have not supplanted earlier public, academic and political understandings of Labouchère. Specifically they have not explored how earlier understandings informed the debate about decriminalisation which, as this thesis will show, was premised on these historical interpretations. More broadly, the thesis argues that the over-concentration and mistaken interpretation of the Labouchère Amendment, which has misinformed understandings of the SOA (1967), has prevented the development of a more thorough, genealogical analysis of simultaneous sexual regulation more generally. In turn, developing a combined analysis of heterosexual as well as homosexual regulation contributes to the critique of existing interpretations which uncritically present certain events as homophobic rather than part of a more encompassing punitive heteronormativity.

Part One critiques homosexual regulation’s historiography, before exploring theoretical and methodological issues raised in my thesis. Part Two then questions the Labouchère Amendment’s status as a fundamental adjustment in homosexual regulation making private homosexual acts short of sodomy illegal for the first time (Weeks, 1977). I provide an alternative history showing all homosexual acts were previously punishable and show that Labouchère’s Amendment was not homophobic but a measure for the protection of male youths from sexual exploitation and as such part in keeping with the wider punitive heteronormativity. I achieve this through analysing the primary sources on Labouchère’s Amendment from that period alongside the genealogical contextualization provided by contemporaneous heterosexual regulation. This establishes the foundations for Part 3 to repeat this methodology in analysing the decriminalisation process, this questions the centrality ascribed to the 1957 Wolfenden Report. I establish that this concentration ignores that decriminalisation was a highly politicised and negotiated process reliant upon the same social and political transformations that also re-ordered heterosexual regulation. This radically changes the interpretation of the how and why decriminalisation occurred and what had been possible.
Baxendale, Graham
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Baxendale, Graham
2c2bd245-6177-4396-8e8b-522831386eb1
Mcghee, Derek
63b8ae1e-8a71-470c-b780-2f0a95631902
Halford, Susan
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Baxendale, Graham (2013) The discursive production of homosexual regulation. University of Southampton, Social Sciences, Doctoral Thesis, 418pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis explores the pivotal place of the 1885 Labouchère Amendment and the 1967 Sexual Offences Act in the discourse of homosexual regulation presented by 20th century homophile histories. These twin events of ‘criminalisation’ and ‘decriminalisation’ are revisited to explore how and why they occurred and how they came to assume such a central position in both academic and popular understanding. The thesis draws on two streams of evidence. The literature on homosexual regulation is examined to establish the claims that are made about Labouchère Amendment and the Sexual Offences Act and the place that they are accorded, and the relationship that is established between them, within widely accepted homophile histories of the UK. Alongside this, primary sources – in the form of parliamentary debates, government papers, newspaper archives, and biographies – are interrogated to unpick the motivations and intentions of those involved in these pieces of legislation and to position them within a wider historical context.

The thesis argues that this literature on homosexual regulation contributed to and institutionalised a homophile discourse geared especially towards establishing a history of what specific events might mean for political imperatives of the time and future prospects of homosexual communities. I will suggest that this led to uncritical acceptance of particular interpretations of the Labouchère Amendment and the Sexual Offences Act, which were reproduced over time and thus established as ‘truths’ within academia, the gay community and the wider public. Whilst some authors have recently subsequently questioned the importance of the Labouchère Amendment in the process of criminalisation (e.g. Cocks, 2003:17) these accounts have by-passed this event altogether, rather than offering an alternative account for its passage. Consequently, they have not supplanted earlier public, academic and political understandings of Labouchère. Specifically they have not explored how earlier understandings informed the debate about decriminalisation which, as this thesis will show, was premised on these historical interpretations. More broadly, the thesis argues that the over-concentration and mistaken interpretation of the Labouchère Amendment, which has misinformed understandings of the SOA (1967), has prevented the development of a more thorough, genealogical analysis of simultaneous sexual regulation more generally. In turn, developing a combined analysis of heterosexual as well as homosexual regulation contributes to the critique of existing interpretations which uncritically present certain events as homophobic rather than part of a more encompassing punitive heteronormativity.

Part One critiques homosexual regulation’s historiography, before exploring theoretical and methodological issues raised in my thesis. Part Two then questions the Labouchère Amendment’s status as a fundamental adjustment in homosexual regulation making private homosexual acts short of sodomy illegal for the first time (Weeks, 1977). I provide an alternative history showing all homosexual acts were previously punishable and show that Labouchère’s Amendment was not homophobic but a measure for the protection of male youths from sexual exploitation and as such part in keeping with the wider punitive heteronormativity. I achieve this through analysing the primary sources on Labouchère’s Amendment from that period alongside the genealogical contextualization provided by contemporaneous heterosexual regulation. This establishes the foundations for Part 3 to repeat this methodology in analysing the decriminalisation process, this questions the centrality ascribed to the 1957 Wolfenden Report. I establish that this concentration ignores that decriminalisation was a highly politicised and negotiated process reliant upon the same social and political transformations that also re-ordered heterosexual regulation. This radically changes the interpretation of the how and why decriminalisation occurred and what had been possible.

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More information

Published date: June 2013
Organisations: University of Southampton, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 354370
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/354370
PURE UUID: 616c3568-019f-411f-b232-95e9a6483560
ORCID for Derek Mcghee: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-3226-6300

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 09 Jul 2013 09:00
Last modified: 06 Jun 2018 12:51

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