Sex and Sexuality in Later Life: the More the Healthier?
U of Lleida, Spain
New biomedicalized forms of longevity, anti-ageing ideals, and the focus on successful ageing have permeated the current sociocultural and political climate. These changes have also influenced the perceptions of sexual practices, sexuality, and sexual health of older people. The idea of having an active sexual life in older age, previously negatively associated with the narrative of decline that portrays older individuals as sexually inactive, impotent, and frail, is now changing. This paper draws attention to the perception of sexuality in later life and the model of successful ageing that emphasises the optimisation of sexual activity and equates it to the overall health of an ageing individual. It opens the discussion about shifting attitudes towards sexual practices and sexuality beyond biomedical understandings of late-life sex, and provides examples that challenge the model of successful ageing and the consumption of medication to enhance the idea of sexual activity. Finally, this paper reveals alternative ways of exploring sexual practices in older age and calls for a consideration of more realistic perspectives towards sexual experiences of older individuals that can have significant implications for healthcare policy and the future of sexuality in later stages of life.
The Sexual Politics of Healthy Families. Healthist Framings in the Struggles over Parenting outside Heterosexuality in Italy.
University of Eastern Piedmont, Italy
The growing prominence of health in framing social struggles has deeply changed public discourse and claimsmaking around sexual issues, with a turn that Epstein and Mamo (2017) have called "sexual healthism". This process has been discussed for its individualizing, depoliticizing, essentializing and victimizing implications, but the proliferation of the meanings and uses of sexual health can hardly be reduced to unambigous tendencies.
By focusing on parenting outside heterosexuality, the paper explores the connections between these reframing tendencies in sexual politics, and those regarding the therapeutic surveillance of parenting. A focus on parent-child relations allows to address the familization of social regulation in neoliberal politics, which is often overshadowed by a focus on individual responsibility in critical literature on sexual health.
Looking both at parents dealing with LGBTQ children and at LGBTQ adults as parents, the paper investigates healthist framings in parents' collective claims, self-help activities and individual sensemaking, and their use among relevant allies in the helping and health professions. Focusing on Italy, it builds upon analyses of advocacy and self-help material, focus groups and interviews with professionals and LGBTQ activists, and interviews with parents of LGBTQ children. It explores both the political spaces opened by their strategic use, and concerns about power relations between collective actors and professional experts, which models of good parenting are sustained and how they may uphold class and other social hierarchies. It also shows how healthist frames are resisted or hybridized in understanding experiences of oppression and in outlining strategies of change.
‘Prep Is A Chemical Condom’: Narratives Of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis For HIV Among Barebackers And Bugchasers
The University of Manchester, United Kingdom
PrEP, a daily drug regime which helps prevent HIV infection even if exposed to the virus, has caused a cultural groundswell in the gay community with its potential to prevent HIV and its problematic medicalization of the HIV-negative body (Dean 2015, Feliciantonio 2017). This paper looks at the impact of PrEP among barebackers, who fetishize unprotected sex, and bugchasers, who fetishize HIV infection. While PrEP has been conceptualized as an effective HIV-prevention tool by mainstream media and the ‘gay community’, little to no empirical work is available on how barebackers and bugchasers use PrEP and interact with the medical authorities providing it.
Over the past year, I have conducted over fifteen in-depth interviews with barebackers bugchasers and analysed hundreds of online messages to explore how these men access, consume or reject PrEP. This paper sustains that barebackers’ and bugchasers’ perceptions of PrEP are fluid and varied: whereas some see it as a last-barrier against HIV infection, others consider it to be an obstacle for intimacy. Even more so, whereas current research focuses on the process of starting PrEP, participants in my research found abandoning PrEP to be a much more symbolic act, whereby they would be truly experiencing freedom from medicalized sex. Overall, this paper theorises these narratives and contextualises them within larger dynamics of sexual and public health, presenting alternative significations and challenging stable narratives of PrEP. In so doing, I open new avenues for research regarding PrEP and proposes points of action for future public health interventions.
Realizing Sexuality by Preventing Sexuality – The Case of Non-Offending Pedophils
TU Berlin, Germany
The social response to pedophilia in germany is currently changing. Instead of a total exclusion, incaceration and death wishes a long list of therapeutic institutions, self help communities and books try to include pedophilic persons into society by offering guidance towards a non-offending life. The doctoral work aims to reconstruct this societal change by aligning data out of media coverage, therapeutic programs and narrative interviews with participants of therapeutic/self-help institutions.
In this talk I want to highlight the entangled configuration of ‘prevention’ of sexuality within this dispositif. Whereas inside the media coverage ‘prevention’ is exclusively associated with child sexual abuse and is thereby the legitimation of the therapeutic programs, the programs themselves focusing the pedophilic subject produce a authenticated representation, which is inevitably drawn towards sexual contact with children, if not preventivly strengthenend, stabilized and taught control. The non-offending pedophiles claim on the contrary, that there is no need for control. Their sexual impulses were to exist, but would be subordinated by the need of emotional preservation of children and the epistemic preservation of the self, which would be destroyed by harming children. Their sexuality were on the one hand sight unrealizable, on the other hand sight they would realize an emotional and ethical part by not acting upon it. Interconnections of these aspects and their significant transformation of society by an inclusion through ethical relations to self will be analyzed in the talk.