By the end of the twentieth century, a combination of profound social changes and major techno-scientific innovations had reorganized ‘the sexual field’ into three separate systems. The early twentieth century distinction between sexual pleasure and reproduction was supplemented by one between biological ‘sex’ and social ‘gender’, in which the figures of ‘the transsexual’ and ‘transgender’ were central, with the category of ‘gender’ eventually peeling off to have an entirely different, surprising and important historical destiny. In retrospect, therefore, we can distinguish the ‘pleasure-system’, the ‘gender-identity system’ and the ‘reproductive system’ as increasingly separate but competing and interacting scientific research fields with major technologies developed within them, linking closely to new social categories and modes of living; these three systems emerged across the twentieth century through the interaction of several different historical processes, separate but interlinked, and each with its own pace and rhythm. While the phrase ‘Sexual Revolution’ once evoked changes in sexual mores and contraceptive practices of the 1960s and after, this well-known ‘revolution’ may have been part of a larger revolution in which an entirely new configuration of the pleasure-, gender- and reproductive-systems emerged.
This conference will allow a comparison of the contemporaneous political and ethical debates over medical innovations in ‘sex’, ‘gender’ and assisted conception.
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