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School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care

Transforming health and social care practice through education and research

Sexual health research and practice symposium

The Open University’s Reproduction, Sexualities and Sexual Health Research Group invite you to: 

A Sexual Health Research and Practice Symposium

Friday 25th November 10:00 – 18:00 at The Open University, 1-11 Hawley Crescent, Camden Town, London, NW1 8NP


Thank you to all those that attended this symposium. We are pleased to announce that speaker presentations are now available!

Dan Baker – How do young gay and bisexual men navigate their online identity as part of their adolescent sexual identity development?

Alison Cooke – A Hospice Approach to the Management and Support of Young People with Issues Relating to Sexuality for Young People with Palliative, Life Limiting and Life threatening conditions

Claire de Than Supporting the human right to have fun

Eleanor Formby – Supporting young LGBT+ people’s sexual health

Rebecca Jones – Positive visions of queer ageing and sexual relationships

Mathijs Lucassen – That's [not] so gay: Computerised therapy for sexual minority youth with depression

Ester McGeeney – The good sex project; tracing research impact over time

Carrie Purcell – Working toward destigmatising abortion services in Scotland

Programme outline

As part of our commitment to continuous knowledge exchange within the academic, policy, and practice communities we are arranging a symposium to focus on two areas in sexual health where such knowledge exchange can be challenging.

•    Delivering/developing innovative, non-stigmatising, non-judgemental sexual health services.
•    Factoring pleasure and intimacy into sexual health.

The symposium will bring together invited experts from the world of social science research, policy and practice to address these issues under the following topic headings:

•    LGBT+
•    Reproductive control
•    HIV
•    Sexuality and disability

Panel 1: Pleasure and intimacy

Sexual health services tend to focus on morbidities (for example sexual dysfunction or sexually transmitted infections) or reproductive outcomes. Accordingly, the role of sexual function and sexual pleasure and intimacy remain underdeveloped in sexual health services. Moreover, for some groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, people with disabilities, older people or people with long-term conditions, sexual pleasure, intimacy and functioning are very poorly understood. 

The oppressions experienced by disabled people in their sexual and intimate lives are frequently over-looked. Whist a growing literature indicates that people with physical, sensory and/ or learning difficulties want to discuss and have intimate relationships, irrespective of sexual orientation or disability. It is recognised that health and social care practitioners often find it difficult to discuss and support disabled people with sexuality issues. In the area of reproductive control, questions of sexual relationships, pleasure and intimacy are not necessarily at the forefront of practitioners’ minds when engaged in contraceptive counselling, or in designing sex and relationships education, despite research that points to the importance of understanding, for example, how contraceptive choices may be influenced by conceptions of sexual pleasure and intimacy. Similarly, STI prevention and treatment services traditionally focus on negative outcomes of sexual risk whilst rarely considering people’s experiences of intimacy and pleasure and the role this plays in sexual decision – making and behaviours.

Panel 2: Developing inclusive sexual health services

Questions of stigma in sexual health services remain relevant. This can be stigma associated with identity, for example being lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender, or diverse in terms of sex and gender; or with sexual practices or behaviours (for example women seeking abortion, or those whose sexual practices are considered to be non-normative). Moreover, there is significant stigma attending sexual pleasure, practices and desires of people with disabilities and those with long-term sexually transmissible conditions such as HIV or Hepatitis. Such stigma profoundly influences how services are delivered and received, what services are commissioned and who receives sexual health services. 

Panel 3: Research in practice

In Panel 3, presentations will focus on the ways in which research has been translated into practice across our sexual health areas. In particular, presenters will consider the ways in which pleasure and intimacy have been designed into services and ways in which services are made more inclusive and non-judgemental.

We are delighted to announce that our confirmed speakers include:

Ann Furedi has led the abortion provider and advocacy charity British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) as its chief executive, since 2003. Her previous career was mainly in policy, communications and crisis management. She has recently published The Moral Case for Abortion (Palgrave Macmillan). She lives in Kent and is Chair Elect of MidKent FE College.

Alison Hadley OBE is the Director of the first Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange at the University of Bedfordshire. Prior to this role Alison led the implementation of the previous Government's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy for England, which reduced the under-18 conception rate by 34% to the lowest level for 40 years, and helped improve maternity and postnatal support for young parents.

Dr Peter Keogh is Senior Lecturer and Head of Reproduction, Sexualities and Health Research Group at The Open University. His background is in applied social research in the areas of HIV, intimacy and sexual risk. For many years, Peter worked at Sigma Research and more recently at NatCen Social Research and the University of Greenwich. He also holds an Honorary Senior Lectureship at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Peter is interested in how people with HIV and those at risk for HIV manage their sexual, intimate and social lives as the epidemic unfolds. In particular, he is interested in looking at the ways in which biomedical and governmental processes interact with sexual and intimate lives and with questions of identity, citizenship and community/collectivity. Most recently, Peter has been exploring, with others, processes of biomedicalisation of HIV - a period which commenced with the introduction of highly effective antiretroviral treatments in 1996 and recently led to the introduction of pharmaceutical HIV prevention technologies.

Dr Rebecca Jones is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, at the Open University. She has used a variety of broadly narrative and discursive approaches in her research to investigate a range of topics including: age discrimination, how people imagine their own ageing and later life, normative and non-normative life courses, the ageing of lesbians, gay men, bisexual people and transgender (LGBT) people, LGBT issues in health and social care, and especially ageing and bisexuality.

Claire de Than is Co-Director of the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism at City University, London, having previously held appointments at 2 London University colleges. She is a Law Commissioner (Jersey).The author or co-author of more than 15 books, including de Than, Criminal Law (OUP 2016), de Than and Heaton, Criminal Law (OUP 2014) and de Than and Shorts, International Criminal Law and Human Rights (Sweet and Maxwell 2004), she has over 80 legal publications in total, including chapters in leading legal monographs and edited collections, such as Reed and Bohlander, Substantive Issues in Criminal Law (Ashgate, 2011) and articles in a variety of national and international journals, including the Modern Law Review. Her research fields include criminal law, human rights law, media law, and disability law. She has been an expert for the Law Commission of England and Wales on two recent criminal law projects. A regular keynote speaker at legal and medical conferences, she has advised several governments and many organisations on criminal law, human rights and law reform issues, with specialisms in comparative human rights, the law of British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies and in the law of consent.

Jon Hastie is 35 years old and has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  He is from the UK and lives in his own flat in Shoreham, West Sussex, having moved out from the family home some years ago. He is supported by a team of carers who provide his personal care 24/7, funded by a Personal Health Budget from NHS Continuing Healthcare.  Jon has very little mobility throughout his body, requires 24/7 non-invasive ventilation and can eat only soft or puréed foods. Despite his complex care needs, he has worked in a variety of roles since leaving university, including at local disability charities and as a local government Political Assistant.  He now works part-time at DMD Pathfinders, a user-led charity he founded in 2014 to provide advice, guidance and support to adults living with Duchenne.  He tries to find time to enjoy a good glass of wine or two with friends down the pub, and enjoys cinema, theatre and comedy shows.

Details of all our confirmed speakers can be found in the 'A Sexual Health Research and Practice Symposium' brochure.

Please click here for more information about The Open University’s Reproduction Sexualities and Health Group.

Visit The Open University Sexuality Alliance website to find out more about the development of guidance and standards for professionals who support people with life-limiting conditions.

Registration is now closed