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Gender, Intimacies and Sexuality

Professor Jacqui Gabb

The Gender, Intimacies and Sexuality Research Stream is led by Professor Jacqui Gabb.

How do people practice, experience and embody citizenship and governance in their intimate lives and relationships? How do gender and sexuality become known to us individually and recognised by others, in different social and geo-temporal contexts?

Meet the team

Gender, Intimacies and Sexuality (GENIES) brings together an interdisciplinary group of cis, trans and non-binary researchers whose interests probe how public and private spheres intersect and separate.  In doing so, we bring together the macro and micro dimensions of citizenship and governance, illustrating how the personal is profoundly political, at every level and across sexual and gender diversity.

At the heart of contemporary citizenship and governance lies a range of expectations, rights, responsibilites and prohibitions that directly impinge on bodies and relationships, such as reproductive rights, universal health care and same-sex marriage.  Embedded in regulation and legislation are norms about the acceptability and form of sexual and gender identities, intimacy and personal relationships, generational divisions, health and ill-health, legitimate and 'risky' lifestyles.  Deeply racialized markers of 'civilization' and 'otherness' are associated with certain bodily appearances as well as gender norms; here, gender, sexuality and power intersect.

Sexualised identities and understandings of consent are also enmeshed in relations of power.  Sexual regulation and social mores render certain forms of sex and intimacy legitimate, outside 'the norm' or illegal.  Power relations are adversely enacted through sexual violence, sexual harrassment, human trafficking and sexual exploitation.  Biomedical and governmental processes interact to concretise norms around sexual identities and sexual citizenship.  Discrimination and structural vulnerability are often left unaddressed, disproprortionately leading to homelessness and modern slavery which adversely and disproportionately impact on different groups, such as LGBTQ+ people.

Global research consistently shows that despite growing social tolerance, trans, non-binary and genderqueer people still regularly experience discrimination, intimidation, abuse or violence.  In over 20 EU countries, residents must get sterilised before geing granted legal recognition of their gender.  A recent UK study showed that 41% of trans people reported attempting suicide compared to less than 2% of the general population, and suicide rates further increased when additional 'stressors' are present, such as fear of discrimination as well as fear of parental rejection for young trans and queer people.

GENIES runs workshops and seminars on gender, intimacy and sexuality that engage with research, methodological innovation, advocacy and activism.


Enduring Love? Couple relationships in the 21st century

In this award-winning ESRC mixed methods study, Professor Jacqui Gabb investigated how couples experience, understand and sustain their long-term relationships. She is now working as Chief Relationships Officer at Paired, a new app that is informed by the Enduring Love? study, that is designed to improve couples’ communication and deepen intimacy through daily prompts. Paired has achieved critical acclaim, winning the ‘personal growth’ category in the 2020 Google Play award and Apple ‘apps we love’.

Salvage: Challenging Gendered Harms in Activist Communities

Julia Downes hosted a series of interactive and capacity building workshops funded by the Feminist Review Trust 2016-17 that aimed to support and generate sustainable interventions to address gendered violence in social justice movements.

The impact of family relationships on LGBTQ youth mental health and wellbeing

Funded by the Wellcome Trust (UNS39780), Jacqui Gabb completed a small scale study with Liz McDermott (Lancaster University) on the impact of family environments on the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth.

Internet Infidelity: Creating Partnerships

Funded through an ESRC Impact Acceleration Award, Naomi Moller and Andreas Vossler are working with the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships to develop a programme of knowledge exchange activities about internet infidelity.

Participatory Arts and Social Action Research (PASAR)

In the PASAR project Umut Erel explored how participatory theatre and walking methods can co-produce knowledge, funded through the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) programme (2016-17).

Do participatory visual methods 'give voice'

In this ESRC National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) project (2017-19), Dan McCulloch critically explores claims that participatory methods 'give voice' to those involved, by exploring researcher, participant and audience perspective on such claims.

Death in the Family in Urban Senegal: Bereavement, Care and Family Relations

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust Jane McCarthy (and Ruth Evans, University of Reading) have interrogated material and emotional experiences of family members after the death of an adult relative living in contemporary urban West Africa.

G-VERSITY - Achieving Gender Diversity

Peter Hegarty is a partner within the G-VERSITY interdisciplinary and intersectoral doctoral training network, a Horizon 2020 project funded by the European Union (953326). Research at the OU within G-VERISTY focuses on pathways to leadership among LGBT people. Peter Hegarty also leads the training of PhD researchers within G-VERSITY.

Engaging sexual stories

Funded by the Wellcome Trust (UNS100842), Professor Jacqui Gabb and Dr Mathijs Lucassen are collaborating with Cath Mercer at University College London and Emma Renold at Cardiff University on a public engagement project that utilizes National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal 3) data to empower people and improve their knowledge of sex and relationships. This has generated OpenLearn interactive resources for the general public and workshops with young people on issues around sex that matter to them. In collaboration with Brook, this young people-centred learning are being translated into eLearning evidence-based resources for teachers to deliver RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) in schools.

Best Interests of the Child in State Care in China

With the support of the Sino-British Fellowship Trust and in collaboration with colleagues from UK, Chinese and Australian universities Jane McCarthy and Monica Dowling have explored how childrens 'best interests' and family lives occur in diverse contexts.

GENIES runs workshops and seminars on gender, intimacy and sexuality that engage with research, methodological innovation, advocacy and activism.