UCL European Institute


Sexual health: intersections in politics and society

11 November 2014, 12:00 am

Eventbrite - Sexual health: intersections in politics and society

Event Information

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11 November 2014
A cross-discplinary and cross-regional seminar on identity, class, ethnicity, and contested notions of 'community' in sexual health politics, with speakers from the UCL Institute of the Americas and the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies.

11 November 2014
followed by drinks reception

Lecture Theatre 103
UCL Institute of the Americas
51 Gordon Square
London WC1H 0PN

The first of a series of interdisciplinary encounters between staff working on different regions, this seminar will be particularly interested in sexual health politics in the US and the UK.

Speakers and abstracts

Professor Jonathan Bell
Professor of US History
Director, UCL Institute of the Americas

The economic closet: Health care, sexuality, and the politics of respectability during the AIDS crisis
In my talk I discuss the development an economic closet encasing the political economy of health services during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Gay rights leaders in organizations like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Mobilization Against AIDS found it difficult to accept the status of HIV-positive gay men as 'disabled' supplicants in the battle for social welfare and Medicaid benefits, but they and their political allies in Congress and State Legislatures had little choice but to try to adapt the socially-regressive and gendered New Deal safety net to their needs. At the same time, they enacted legislation at State and federal levels to extend employment-provided health coverage to anyone leaving employment, trying to tie AIDS patients to the politically respectable face of health care provision for as long as possible. Yet that private system was determined to categorize all gay men as economic risks outside the parameters of productive citizenship. Insurance companies used terms 'illicit' and 'promiscuous' not simply as moral value judgments but as codes associating sexual activity with sickness that had a clear economic cost.

Charting the evolution of debates over health care for sexual minorities after the 1960s encourages us to reconsider easy teleological narratives about the decline of liberalism or its fracturing into easily defined 'identity groups', and also points to a more contested social politics of gender, sexuality, and public health than had been possible when the American social safety net was constructed between the 1930s and 1960s. Congressional and State-level politicians, together with state agencies, gradually and fitfully integrated sexual minorities into older categories of 'deserving' in federal welfare politics, setting the scene for the further association of liberalism with social need and less with 'breadwinner' politics that had defined the public-private welfare state of the post-war era.​

Dr Richard Mole
Senior Lecturer in Political Sociology
School of Slavonic and East European Studies

Migration and sexual health
Building on earlier research which found that gay/bisexual men from Central and Eastern Europe were at greater risk of sexual ill health following migration to London, the aim of this ​paper is to explore how the process of migration itself may have influenced the migrants' sexual behaviour and attitudes. High-risk sexual behaviour was found to be a factor of sexual mixing, the use of commercial sex and perceptions of risk in the UK vis-a-vis Central and Eastern Europe, with each of these factors also influenced by the process of migration.