Vocabularies of Active Female Desire

Vocabularies of Active Female Desire: A FemGenSex Symposium

Vocabularies of Active Female Desire: A FemGenSex Seminar 30th March 2015 13.00-17.30 Room C211, College Building, Middlesex University.

Tea and biscuits will be provided.

Despite years of heated debate, reaching back at least as far as the feminist sex wars of the 1970s and 1980s, issues surrounding the depiction of active female desire remain high on the cultural agenda. Whether it be new UK regulations taking aim at the depiction of certain kinds of female sexual enjoyment in video-on-demand pornography, or the upcoming release of the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, it is clear that desire, sexual difference, and representation continue to form a complex and provocative conceptual nexus. Such a nexus demands careful consideration from a variety of perspectives if we wish to cultivate a more nuanced and holistic understanding of a topic too often generative of uncritical kneejerk reactions or rehearsed moral panics. This one day symposium, to be held at Middlesex University in London, invites theorists and practitioners from a range of disciplinary backgrounds to discuss the challenges posed by attempts to represent active female desires (inclusively defined), as well as to explore some of the innovative contemporary strategies for addressing these challenges within various media and discursive traditions. In what ways is female desire active, and what activates it? What might such a desire look like? How does it sound, and what language does it use? Where can we detect the presence of active female desire in contemporary legal, medical, and other discourses, and how have artists, writers, and filmmakers sought to represent it? These are some of the topics that ‘Contemporary Vocabularies of Active Female Desire’ will seek to address.

Confirmed speakers: Katherine Angel, Dr. Alison J Carr,Alex Dymock, Professor Feona Attwood , Dr Helen HesterDr. Lucy Neville ,Itziar Bilbao Urrutia 

Speakers Biographies

Katherine Angel is the author of Unmastered: A Book On Desire, Most Difficult To Tell (published in the UK by Penguin/Allen Lane and in the USA by Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Her writing has appeared in The Independent, Prospect, The New Statesman, Aeon, and Five Dials, and she reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and Poetry Review. She studied at Cambridge and Harvard universities, has a PhD from Cambridge, and after a fellowship at the University of Warwick, currently holds a research fellowship at Queen Mary, University of London. She is writing a book on ‘female sexual dysfunction’ and post-feminism. Her research has been published in History of the Human Sciences, Biosocieties, and The Lancet. She also collaborates with performance group The Blackburn Company on a live art reading, Unmastered Remastered.

Feona Attwood is Professor of Cultural Studies, Communication and Media at Middlesex University, UK. Her research is in the area of sex in contemporary culture; and in particular, in onscenity; sexualization; sexual cultures; new technologies, identity and the body; and controversial media. She is the editor of the journals, Sexualities and Porn Studies, and of a number of collections on mainstreaming sex, online pornography, controversial images, researching and teaching sexually explicit media, young people’s sexual cultures, and sex work and policy.

Alex Dymock is Lecturer in Criminology & Law at Royal Holloway, joining the department of Law, Criminology and Sociology in January 2015. She recently submitted her doctoral thesis at the School of Law, University of Reading, and her research has been published in journals such as Sexualities and Psychology & Sexuality. Her research is situated broadly between the fields of critical and cultural criminology, critical legal studies, and gender and sexuality studies, and she has a particular interest in sexual offences and sex offenders, structural and institutional violence, and histories of crime and sexuality.

Dr. Alison J Carr is an artist. She works in photography, video, collage, and performance. She has a PhD from Sheffield Hallam University and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. She has exhibited and performed in Sheffield, Leeds, London, Los Angeles, Berlin, and Indiana. She was Terra Summer Resident in Giverny, France in 2010. Her research emerges from her art-practice, and she is interested in showgirls, strippers, bodies on display and female viewing pleasures. She is currently writing an article for X-tra journal, LA and a chapter on the figure of the stripper for Routledge.

Helen Hester is Lecturer in Promotional Cultures at Middlesex University, London. Her research interests include technofeminism, sexuality studies, and theories of work, and she is the author of Beyond Explicit: Pornography and the Displacement of Sex (SUNY Press, 2014).

Dr. Lucy Neville is a lecturer, researcher and creative writer, currently based at Middlesex University. She is primarily interested in understanding women’s engagement with sex and sex work. Her PhD thesis in Forensic Psyhcology involved investigating violence perpetuated against sex workers by both clients and intimate partners across seven metropolitan areas from 1980-2006, and since then she has worked on a number of projects focused around women involved in sex work. She is also currently undertaking a research project looking at women’s production and consumption of

Itziar Bilbao Urrutia is a fetish video producer, visual artist and writer. Her background in Art, with an MA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College, gave her a creative and critical approach to fetish, and specifically, to her sexuality of choice, female domination or Femdom.  Her background in performance and video art and activism gave birth in 2010 to her ongoing project, the Urban Chick Supremacy Cell, a members’ fetish video website where she explores new narratives and representations of female sexual dominance, challenging the male gaze hegemony in more mainstream porn.

The concerns in her work and writing revolve around non-normative narratives of female heterosexuality and specifically, giving a queer interpretation of non-normative female heterosexual desire. More recently, politics and disobedience have been added to the subjects in both her practice and writing. She has been an activist with Backlash UK since 2009.  Along with her presence in the online adult industry as an independent porn producer, she has published and exhibited her work in galleries, art museums and cultural events in London, Europe, the US and Australia. Among others, she has performed at the Adelaide Fringe Festival; exhibited her work at GENEALOGIAS – 50 Years of Spanish Feminist Art – Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC), 2012; published her writing in El País, La Vanguardia and online blogs; collaborated with many contemporary artists and spoken at symposium conferences such as Sex on Trial and PERFORMING PORN (after the computer became boring).  She is currently a doctoral researcher at the School of Government and Society of the University of Birmingham.  Itziar is Basque by birth and a Londoner by choice


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