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Scotland and the Heterosexual Revolution

Dr Charlie Lynch, explains how the sexual revolution was experienced in the West End of Glasgow in Scotland.

Scholarship on the sexual revolution has tended to focus on cities such as London, Paris, New York and San Francisco. These were places with visible youth subcultures and where changes in sexual behaviours and attitudes were visible and pronounced. But what happens to our understanding of sexual change in this period when we switch focus to smaller, more religiously-conservative regions?

In this video, Dr Charlie Lynch, a researcher in the history of heterosexuality and religion at the University of Glasgow, explains how the sexual revolution was experienced in the West End of Glasgow in Scotland. Based on oral history interviews with Scottish women and men who lived throughout the 1960s, he reveals a contradictory picture of transformative change for some, including experimentation with casual sexual encounters and cohabitation outside marriage, coupled with the continuation of rigid gender roles and suspicion of same-sex desire.

He also shows how a nation’s sense of itself as morally upright can influence how people recall their own sexual experiences, with the dominant public story about ‘the Sixties’ far removed from most people’s more prosaic experiences of everyday life. Throughout, Charlie uses the term ‘popular sexual revolution’ to refer to change that was driven from below, by the agency of individual people.

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A Global History of Sex and Gender: Bodies and Power in the Modern World

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