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Constructing sexual citizenship: Theorizing sexual rights

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Diane Richardson


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Recently, a new body of work on sexuality and citizenship has emerged. In this article I analyse sexual citizenship through an examination of the concept of sexual rights. How has rights language been used to articulate demands in relation to sexuality? What do we mean by sexual rights or duties? Although the concept is not new, there are competing claims for what are defined as sexual rights and lack of rights, reflecting not only differences in how sexuality is conceptualized but also the fact that there is no singular agreed definition of sexual citizenship. The combination of sexual rights as a contested concept and the increasing usage of the language of citizenship in 'sexual politics', underlines the need for a critical analysis of its meaning and value as a concept. To this end, I have outlined a framework which tries to make sense of the different ways of interpreting sexual rights in terms of three main sub-streams apparent within sexual rights discourse: conduct-based, identity-based and relationship-based rights claims. This is not to imply an uncritical acceptance of the concept of sexual rights, however this may be defined. On the contrary, it is to attempt to clarify similarities and differences between both individual writers and social groups campaigning for social change in relation to sexuality, in order that we may have a more detailed understanding of the limitations and potential of the notion of sexual citizenship.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Richardson D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Critical Social Policy

Year: 2000

Volume: 20

Issue: 1

Pages: 105-135

ISSN (print): 0261-0183

ISSN (electronic): 1461-703X


DOI: 10.1177/026101830002000105


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