INSEP2015 – Violence, Representations and Sexuality

13th – 15th July, 2015, Ghent University, Belgium

Hosted by CEVI – Centre for Ethics and Value Inquiry
Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent University
Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Ghent – Belgium

Download the INSEP2015 Conference Programme and Abstracts

The relationship between violence and sexuality is one of the most critical areas of engagement for sexuality research and activism. There continues to be an epidemic of violence against women and children – rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and abuse – across the globe, manifest in different cultural customs and practices, authority structures, hetero-patriarchal and hetero-normative regimes at both national (and supranational in the case of trafficking) and everyday micro levels. This epidemic is often met with: limited regulatory responses suffused with heterosexist assumptions; legal authorities that fail to prioritise or regard it is less important than other criminal activity; indifference; and/or claims that the prevalent cultural milieu makes it impossible to act. While some efforts have been made in North America, Europe and Australasia to effect change, in many parts of the globe sexual subjection and suffering continues to be seen as a normal state of affairs.

Equally, across the globe sexual difference and departures from heterosexuality are met by varying degrees of violence, ranging from physical attack and murder, to prejudicial and pathological assumptions that are present even in the social context of equality and rights discourses. To be different is still to be ‘othered’ to varying degrees, and that ‘othering’ often takes damaging forms of practice against those who present themselves as different.

The cultural and representational contexts are of particular importance here. It is in the representational form that we most saliently see the cultural demarcations of legitimacy and illegitimacy for sex and sexuality. Through representations, tensions are played out in the public arena that are sometimes manifest only in inter-subjective or hetero-normative meaning making. In societies where gay men and lesbians are formally recognised, there remains a dichotomy between the ‘respectable’ different that operates within homonormative constraints and lives without troubling heteronormative assumption, and the ‘queer’ whose personal practices challenge or disrupt cultural and social norms as a feature of being themselves. Likewise, the representation of sex in mainstream medias often reinforces particular understandings and meanings suffused with power, presumption and prejudice. Against that, alternate forms of media can play an important role in promote constructive understandings of the relationship between desire, pleasure and healthy satisfaction.

Violence and sexuality also creates a nexus of troubling contradictions. Recently, the fetishisation of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, e.g., normalises a commodified and limited exploration of sexual imagination, whilst BDSMers and others who wish to move beyond difference as an adjunct to genito-centric and penetrative sex remain culturally prejudiced against and subject to different and sometimes punishing pathologies and legal regulatory regimes. Pornography and prostitution represent other areas of contestation. Is pornography or prostitution inherently violent? Or is there room for sufficient levels of agency and choice?
The juxtaposition of pain, violence and sex, whether in practice or in representation, whether consenting or not, splits those radical voices who often support sexual freedom. Does violence and sexuality represent a fault-line for disagreement? Is that disagreement one of language and representation or of power, degradation and its effects?

We welcome papers that explore any aspect of the relationship between violence, representation, sexuality and sex. As always, we also welcome other papers that reflect innovative, creative and thought-provoking work on sexual ethics and politics in general. For this purpose we retain open streams at the conference. Please feel free to email the conference organisers for further inquiries.

Acceptance Policy

The fifth international conference of INSEP welcomes papers, presentations and panels focusing on conceptual and theoretical debates, cultural and political analysis and empirical studies from which conceptual, ethical and political conclusions are drawn.

INSEP seeks to provide a critical and dynamic space for cutting edge thinking, new research and key discussions and debates about issues of sexual ethics or politics, whether conceptual and theoretical discourse, analytical studies or aesthetically or empirically constituted insights. INSEP sees the value in the fullest range of approaches to the study of sexual ethics and politics, including: gendered and feminist perspectives; distinctive lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual perspectives; queer perspectives; and approaches from more general positions such as liberalism, Marxism and democratic theory. The 2015 conference seeks to be an inclusive space for discussion, welcoming dialogue and vigorous debate, but not sectarianism. We consider paper proposals and panel proposals from any disciplinary field, and are willing to consider expositions that take less orthodox forms.

To facilitate funding applications – please note INSEP has no funds of its own – we operate a ‘rolling’ process of abstract review and acceptance or rejection, and can provide documentation where it is required to facilitate funding. Our turnaround time for refereeing is 10 days.

Submission & Timeline

Submissions for papers (250 words), panels or workshops (500 word stipulating participants) should reach us by Monday 15 June at the latest. Earlier of course, is better. Normal acceptance/rejection notification – 10 days. All delegates/paper-givers must register by Monday 23 June, and we encourage earlier registration when acceptances have been communicated.

Please send abstracts to:

The conference fee for the full three days is 150 Euros, which includes the conference pack and refreshments. A concessionary rate of 100 Euros is available to students and postgraduates.

INSEP publishes a journal and a book series with Barbara Budrich Publishers. We would anticipate commissioning publications from the conference and, dependent on quality and coherence, may publish a collection based on themes emerging from the conference. INSEP also welcomes submissions to the journal and proposals to the Book Series.

Paul Reynolds
Reader in Sociology and Social Philosophy
Edge Hill University, UK

Tom Claes
Associate Professor of Ethics
Ghent University, Belgium