Cosmopolitan Sexualities (Oxford Talk)



Ken Plummer

The Queen’s College Sexuality and Gender Seminars: March 4th 2013


Politics rests on the fact of human plurality … Hannah Arendt
What most horrifies me in life is our brutal ignorance of one another…
William  James
Human beings are vulnerable precisely because they are sexual beings…
Bryan Turner
Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction
Mikhail Bakhtin


Content: A: Background     B: Frameworks     C: Reading      D: Appendices




Introduction: Living in the Sexual Labyrinth


I have lived with issues of sexual difference all my life, but I am not alone. The global human world is stuffed full of human sexual and gender diversity. Some 7 billion people in some 200 countries are living with a seething world of sexual multiplicities, diversities, pluralities – arguably under conditions of globalizing multiple modernities, accelerating global consumer capitalism, widening inequalities, new media and ever rapid change. The question is: how do we live with this diversity and effervescence? How do we live in the Sexual Labyrinth? And my response in this talk will be: to cultivate a critical cosmopolitan sexualities. I recognize though that this response brings with a lot of problems in its wake: this is my issue for investigation.


What is Cosmopolitanism?

For the Ghanian-American philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, in his book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a world of Strangers ( 2006)) it is a ‘universal concern and respect for legitimate difference’ (Appiah,2006:xv). For the Swedish anthropologist Ulf Hannerz (in Ulf Hannerz   Transnational Connections: Culture, People, Places.( 1996)  it is ‘a mode of managing meaning’ ‘ a willingness to engage with the other’. ‘It entails an intellectual and aesthetic openness toward divergent cultural experiences, a search for contrasts rather than uniformity. ……(It is) a state of readiness: an ability to make one’s way into other cultures, through listening, looking, intuiting and reflecting (Hannerz: 1996: p103). For the German sociologist Ulrich Beck (who is at the forefront of sociological writers in this field) we have arrived at the ‘cosmopolitan moment’ as an emergent and  distinctive feature of modernity: ‘the human condition has itself become cosmopolitan’. We live with the ideas that ‘local, national, ethnic, religious and cosmopolitan cultures and traditions interpenetrate, interconnect and intermingle – cosmopolitanism without provincialism is empty, provincialism without cosmopolitanism is blind’ (Beck Cosmopolitan Vision 2006:p7). For the British sociologist, Robert Fine, cosmopolitanism is bound up deeply with international law and human rights. Indeed, cosmopolitanism is both ‘a determinate social form’ which ‘reconfigures’ a whole sphere of (potentially contradictory) rights as well as being a ‘form of consciousness that involves an understanding of the concept of cosmopolitanism and a capacity to develop the concept in imaginative and reflexive’. He sees it as both outlook (a way of seeing the world)  and a condition ( an existing form of the world) (In Cosmopolitanism p 111, 134.)  Finally, for the influential US feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum, it raises the issue of a  ‘decent world culture’  and a world moral community:


 If our world is to be a decent world in the future, we must acknowledge right now that we are citizens of one interdependent world, held together by mutual fellowship as well as the pursuit of mutual advantage, by compassion as well as self interest, by a love of human dignity, in all people, even when there is nothing to gain from cooperating with them. Or rather even when we have to gain the biggest thing of all: participation in a just and morally decent world. Martha Nussbaum Frontiers of Justice 2006: p324


Critical Sexual Cosmopolitanism: Connecting the Contradictions


Cosmopolitanism raises questions of differences and solidarity: of both human belonging and living with strangers. It asks how we can live with our closest family, community, tribe and nation, simultaneously whilst also recognising and living with other different families, communities and nations. It ponders how we can live together with our common humanity, in spite of ourselves and in spite of our specific local differences? The question for cosmopolitan sexualities is: how can we bridge our specific pluralistic sexual and gendered individualities with human solidarity and common humanity?  How can we connect our differences with collective values, our uniqueness with multiple group coherence? The challenge is to dwell simultaneously as citizens of multiple communities: of our own local and particularistic group, alongside other groups and indeed a common humanity, warts and all, more generally? Cosmopolitanism is a mode of thinking and a utopian imaginary – and an agenda for legal and political change.


Here I discount accounts of cosmopolitanism that see it as inevitably connected with liberalism, colonialism, tourism, consumerism, intellectual elitism or international fashion. Such ideas are too damagingly restricted and limited. I look further afield. A recent study by Robert Holton Cosmopolitanisms (2009) manages to catalogue over 200 hundred meanings of the idea. Interestingly even this is far from complete: it succeeds in missing out the very idea of cosmopolitan sexualities entirely despite its wide discussion by sexuality scholars. In my work I play implicitly with the fine works of Anthony Appiah, Ulrich Beck, Gerard Delanty, Robert Fine, Robert Holton, Stan Van Hooft, Mica Nava, Martha Nussbaum, Adam Smith, Bryan S Turner, Nira Yuval-Davis and many others – to throw light on what a Critical Cosmopolitan Sexualities might look like.




Here I simply outline the frame I am developing for a book I am writing. I cannot deal with all of this in a 50 minute talk, which will inevitably just be suggestive and selective of a few issues.

Core Questions for a Critical Cosmopolitan Analysis

  1. Differences: What are key human sexual and gender differences and how do they develop?
  2. Sexual and Gender Boundaries: What might be the limits of difference? How do we manage, change and redraw symbolic boundaries and boundaries to ‘communities’ whilst fostering inter-relatededness and interconnections, openness and fluidity across differences?
  3. Connectedness: How do our sexual and gender differences move across personal, community and global worlds – weaving from closeness to distance, through ‘circles of sympathy’ and ‘worlds of conflict’?
  4. Sexual and Gender Cultures: How do differences appear in the multiplicities of contingent, complex and ever changing sexual cultures through languages, values, meanings, religions, and the wider sense of the cosmos they harbour?
  5. Sexual and Gender Conflicts: What conflicts are being generated here – both within and between cultures and groups? How might there be conflict resolution or transformation? Can the conflicts ever end?
  6. Sexual and Gender Subjectivities: How do these differences work their way through our embodied, emotional human subjectivities and vulnerabilities?
  7. Empathy: How does empathy work  – or fail to work – around our sexual and gender differences?
  8. Sexual and Gender Stories: How do the stories we tell of our differences provide pathways to empathy and understanding of different worlds?
  9. Dialogues: How do dialogues across sexual and gender differences work – or fail to work: how do people communicate or fail to communicate across their sexual and gender differences?
  10. Common Grounds: What are the key elements of a ‘universal or global ethic’ or a ‘common ground’ that might be found across our sexual and gender differences? This may include an examination of: (a) Common human rights (b) Common human virtues and (c) Common human flourishing. It certainly has to bridge into a common human empathy and a basic human hope.
  11. Social Structures: What are the social, political, legal and ethical structures that work to support – or fail to support- the ability to live with differences?


This deliberately highlights the more social psychological dimensions on which little has been written. It slightly neglects the wider political structural legal dimensions on which the literature is already extensive.


Core Tools for Building a Cosmopolitan Imagination


A: Some core contradictions and problems to be confronted


  1. Avoid simplicity. Learn to live with contradiction and a clear sense of the persistent tension between championing a cosmopolitan search for a common humanity (and the possibility of universal values) whilst simultaneously maintaining a spirit of pluralism and an empathic openness to local uniqueness and difference.
  2. Avoid global abstraction and elite cosmopolitanism. Keep bridging the local, the particular and the grounded with the general, the abstract and the theoretical.
  3. Avoid both strong absolutism and strong relativism. Sustain a level of realism – of absolute reality- in the face of a multiplicity of actual relativisms.
  4. Avoid a naive idealism and fairy story when confronted in the face of actual lived problems and grounded human sufferings. Cosmopolitanism needs to confront inequalities and injustice; resist simple grounds for tolerance; be very aware of the deep conflicts that people are willing to die for; the profundity of religious lives and deeply held convictions of difference; and even confront and somehow live with the case of individual fanatics.
  5. Avoid despair. Foster grounds for hope in a world of persistent and inevitable disappointment.


B: Putting Theory into Practice: Practical Pathways Ahead

Building practical common grounds in the face of local vulnerabilities
Start with the vast, varying and conflicting everyday practical practices of everyday, vulnerable embodied people- and never forget them. Then move on to search for what we might all have in common? Search for universal wisdoms for better social worlds through keeping a constant vigilance to local grounded sensitivities and subjectivities.


Building a Cosmopolitan Imagination at a personal level: individuals might try to


  1. Listen, observe, respect cultural complexities: dig deep into other cultures, appreciating their ways of life and problems
  2. Cultivate skill in understanding the deeply emotional embodied world of people’s differences, including an awareness of their vulnerabilities, traumas, their pains, shame, guilt, disgusts, angers, horrors, and humiliations. Alongside their likely need for some kind of dignity, honor and self worth.
  3. Cultivate skills of listening/hearing, of dialogue and of empathetic understanding in the face of vulnerabilities and defenses
  4. Create respectful languages and modes of speaking alongside ways of translating differences across cultures
  5. Learn to see conflict as a peace mission rather than as a fight – as hostility and antagonizing of sides.
    1. Recognise the limits of all this and the need for boundaries in any social order.

At an International/ Global level: try to develop social and political programmes which foster emancipatory projects

1.Build good local/ national/ global networked governance grounded on an empathy of cultural differences.
2. Activate local debates on the search for ‘common grounds’ and ‘global ethics’ across cultures, which can, in turn, work their way through global institutions and practices.  This may include generating charters, frameworks, blog statements and even legislation that exemplify these debates on these common grounds
3. Cultivate the creation of international institutions and global governance which are grounded in sensitivity to the workings of local governments on matters of sexual politics, and which dialogue with them.
4. Build new communication and transnational media, including social networking, to generate ‘intercultural engagement’, good translation practices and speaking across cultures.
5. Work in and with the new social movements and NGO’s across many differences. These can be seen as both as major harbingers of social change and major forces of conservatisms.
6. Recognise the importance of building dialogues between enemies. Tranform conflicts through dialogues and peace keeping institutions.
7. Appreciate the limits of all this and the need for boundaries to be set and maintained.

In short: develop and sustain a cosmopolitan imagination and respect and sustain openness to human and world differences; and work for the creation of a cosmopolitan order (or civil society) where local autonomous communities and lives of difference will be respected alongside heterogenous nation states and global goals for humanity. Ultimately, maybe, foster what Nussbaum has recently called  ‘A Politics of Humanity’.

Appendix: Searching for Common Grounds?


Global Ethics?
Politics And Ethics
And Problems
Empathy: Understand others Politics of Recognition
Dialogic ethics and politics
Invisible and Neglected
Justice: Be fair, treat people equally Politics of Redistribution
Justice ethics
Unequal Lives
Rights: Treat people with ‘dignity’, and the rights that follow from this Politics of Dignity and Rights
Ethics of Rights
Undignified Lives
Flourish: Help others to have flourishing lives Politics of Humanity and Capabilities

Virtue Ethics

Damaged and wasted lives
Care: Be Kind Politics and Ethics of Care Abused Lives
Hope The Politics of Real Utopias Miserable, Misanthropic Lives
Be Practical Pragmatism Totalitarianisms

On the inevitability of disappointment and the importance of hope

The Bad News? The Dark Side

The Dark Side of Sexual Life

Based on my key values they become:

Sexual Intolerance – how dialogues about sexualities are destroyed and attacked etc

Sexual Violence – how sexualities become embroiled in perpetual cruelty, violence, war and hatred.

Sexual Inequalities – how sexualities are linked to poverty, competition and stark inequalities on class, gender, race lines – for these lead to damaged and wasted lives

Sexual  Dehumanization  –   how sexualities become dehumanised, how people lose a sense of dignity, are not respected, treated as without sexual rights-  The human world cannot live by simply banishing huge swathes of sexua lives as worth nothing and condemning them to ‘wasted’ lives

Sexual Languishing / Hopelessness/ Unfillment  – how sexual lives become ‘wretched’, ‘damaged’ and lacking in any kind of ‘quality’
The Good News?
Here just might be some Common Grounds to work for in a Better Sexual World For All:

  1. 1.     Understand others – appreciate and dialogue with your sexual partners and their worlds
  2. 2.     Be Kind -care for the sexual other as well as your self
  3. 3.     Seek Justice- create free, fair and equal relations
  4. 4.     Foster Human Rights and Dignity – respect others, their dignity and their rights being aware of their fragility and vulnerability
  5. 5.     Encourage Lives to Flourish – foster relational flourishing
  6. 6.     Be Positive and Work for Better Worlds For All – keep hopeful in sexual relations
  7. Stay Grounded and Be Practical – keep at it; it’s not easy!



On Cosmopolitanism
Gerard Delanty                            The Cosmopolitan Imagination (2009)
Robert Fine                                Cosmopolitanism (2007)
Gerard Delanty ed                        The Routledge Handbook of Cosmpolitanism (2012)
Nira Yuval-Davis                         The Politics of Belonging (2011)
Pheng Chea (2006)                      Inhuman Conditions: On Cosmopolitanism and Human Rights
Tim Brennan                              At Home in the World :Cosmopolitanism Now (1997)

On Global Sexual Politics

Richard Parker at al                      Sex Politics: Reports from the Front Lines ( 2010)
Sonia Correa, Rosalind Petchesky & Peter Aggleton  Sexuality, Health and Human Rights  (2008) 
Ken Plummer                             Intimate Citizenship (2003)
Peter Aggleton & Richard Parker    Routledge Handbook of Sexuality, Health and Rights  (2010)
Rosalind Petchesky,                     Global Prescriptions : Gendering Health and Human rights  (2003)
Jon Binnie                                 The Globalization of Sexuality (2004)
Martha Nussbaum                        Sex and Social Justice  (1999)
Julian C.H. Lee                           Policing Sexuality: Sex, Society and the State (2011)
François Girard                           “Negotiating Sexual Rights and Sexual Orientation at the UN’ (2010) In Richard Parker at al   Sex  Politics: Reports from the Front Line   e book
On Complex and Mutliple Hybridic Cultures
Seyla Benhabib                           The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era (2002)
Peter Burke                                Cultural Hybridty  (2009)
Kwame Anthony Appiah               The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (2010)
Mukhtar Mai                              In the Name of Honour (2007)

On Diverse Sexual Cultures: An Opening Sample
Peter Aggleton, Paul Boyce, Henrietta L Moore and Richard Parker Understanding Global Sexualities: New Frontiers (2012)
Padilla, Mark.B. et al                   Love and Globalization  (2007)

Parker, Richard                           Beneath the Equator: Cultures of Desire, Male Homosexuality and Emerging Gay Communities in Brazil  1999 Routledge

Epprecht, Marc                            Heterosxual Africa? The History of an Idea from an Age of exploration to the Age of AIDS (2008) Ohio University Press

Kong, Travis                              Male Homosexualities in China  (2010)

Vanita, Ruth                               Love’s Rite: Same-sex marriage in India and the West  (2005)


On Conflicting Diverse Sexual Cultures

James Davison Hunter                  Culture Wars
Carole S Vance ed                                   Pleasure and Danger (1984)/ Andrea Dworkin Pornography (1981)

Lisa Duggan and Nan Hunter         Sex Wars   2nd ed
Patricia Elliot                             Debates in Transgender, Queer and Feminist Theory: Contested Sites (2010)

J. Jack Halberstam                       Gaga Feminism : Sex, Gender and the End of Normal (2012)
Joseph A Massad                         Desiring Arabs (2008)

Jasbir K Puar                              Terrorist Assemblages : Homonationalism in Queer Times (2007)

See also: Amoz Oz                      How to cure a fanatic  (2004/2012)

On the Need for Empathy in Cosmopolitanism
Michael Slote                             The Ethics of Care and Empathy(2007)
Fonna Forman-Barzilai                  Adam Smith and the Circles of Sympathy: Cosmopolitanism and Moral Theory (2010)
Simon Baron- Cohen                   Zero Degrees of  Empathy ( 2011)
Jeremy Rifkin                             The Empathic Civilization (2009)

On Religions and their values

John Witte and M.Christian Green Religion and Human Rights (2012)
Hans Joas & Klaus Wiegandt eds   Secularization and the World Religions  (2009)
Martha Nussbaum                        The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age (2012)
Ulrich Beck                                A God of One’s Own: Religion’s Capacity for Peace and Potential for Violence (2010) Polity
Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart Sacred and Secular: Religion and World Politics (2011 2nd ed) Cambridge

————————–                      Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change around the world  (2003) Cambridge


On the Problem of Inequalities
Ken Plummer                             ‘Intimate Citizenship in an Unjust World’  in The Blackwell Companion to Social Inequalities edited by Mary Romero & Judith Howard (Blackwell, 2005 : Ch 4 p75-99)
Teunis, Niels &  Gil Herdt           Sexual Inequalities and Social Justice  (2007) Routledge
Goran Therborn                           Inequalities of the World 2006 Verso
Sylvia Walby                             Globalization and Inequalities (2009) Sage

Dialogic Ethics and the search for Common Grounds

Bakhtin, Michel                          The Dialogic Imagination
Arendt , Hannah                          The Human Condition

Habermas, Jurgen                        Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action (1992) Polity

Ronald C. Arnett et al                  Communication, Ethics, Literacy: Dialogue and Difference. 2009

Frank, Arthur                              Letting Stories Breathe: A Socio-Narratology (2010)


Common Grounds: Global Ethics
Stan Van Hooft                           Cosmopolitan: A Philosophy for Global Ethics  (2009)
Heather Widdows                        Global Ethics: An Introduction (2011)
Rodrique Tremblay                      The Code for Global Ethics: Toward a Humanist Civilization (2009)

Common Grounds: On Rights and Sexual Rights
Kay Schafer & Sidonie Smith        Human Rights and Narrated Lives (2004) Palgrave
Micheline R Ishay                       The History of Human Rights: From ancient times to the globalization era   (2004)
——————                              The Human Rights Reader  ( 2nd ed 2007 Routledge)
Bryan S Turner (2006)                 Human Rights and Vulnerability
Rosalind Petchesky                      ‘Sexual Rights: Inventing a Concept, Mapping an International Practice’. In Richard Parker et al eds Framing the Sexual Subject: The Politics of Gender, Sexuality and Power (2000) California
Sonia Correa, Rosalind Petchesky & Peter Aggleton  Sexuality, Health and Human Rights  (2008)  Paul Hunt and Judith Beno de Mesquita ( Essex) The Rights to Sexual and Reproductive Health:  Access on

Ken Plummer                             ‘Rights Work: constructing lesbian, gay and sexual rights in late modern times’ Rights ed Lydia Morris. (Routledge: 2006: Ch 8 p152-167).
Vanessa Baird                             Sex, Love and Homophobia. 2004. Amnesty International.
K. Kollman and M. Waites           ‘The Global Politics of LGBT Human Rights’, special issue of Contemporary Politics  Vol. 15, no.1, March 2009.
Nicholas Bamforth ed                   Sex Rights   2005  Oxford UP
Anthony Woodiwiss                    Human Rights (2005) Routledge
Fagan, Andrew                            The Atlas of Human Rights  2010 Myriad
Morris, Lydia  ed                        Rights: Sociological Perspectives 2006  Routledge
Lukes, Steven                             ‘Five Fables About  Human Rights’ in On Human Rights ed Stephen Shute

Common Grounds: On capabilities

The work of Martha Nussbaum

Martha Nussbaum                        Creating Capabilities (2011) Harvard
Cultivating Humanity.  (1997) Harvard

Martha Nussbaum                        Women and human development (2000) Cambridge. Chapter1

Martha Nussbaum                        From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law (2010)

Amrita Chhachhi & Howard Nicholas “Forum 2006”, in Development and Change (2006) Vol 37, No6 especially article by Nussbaum who replies to the debates.

Special issues of the journal Signs: Globalization and Gender, Vol 26, No 4 (2001)

and for a textbook on the whole tradition, see:

Sevrine Deneulin et al                  An Introduction to the Human Development and Capability Approach: Freedom and Agency   (2009) Earthscan


On The Inevitability of Disappointment  and the Importance of Hope
Jeffrey Weeks                              The World We Have Won ( 2007)
Ernest Bloch                               The Principle of Hope (1938-47)
Sara Ahmed                                The Promise of Happiness (2010)
Roger Scruton                             The Used of Pessimism  and the Danger of False Hope (2010)
Ian Craib                                    The Importance of Disappointment (1994)
Michael Albert                            Realizing Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism  (2006)
Eric Olin Wright                         Envisioning Real Utopias  ( 2010)


Creating a Global Common Ground though Social Movements, ‘Human Rights’ and the United Nations


Although there were a few international attempts at sexual and gender cosmopolitanism before 1948, it is really with the arrival of the United Nations and the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNHR) that the global stage is set for a debate on the common grounds of the personal life. Although the UNHR was never explicit on sexual issues in its earliest days, it was raised indirectly through debates on rights, marriage, family, children and eventually the issue of equality between the sexes.The idea of ‘sexual rights’ (and ideas of ‘gender rights’ and ‘sexual orientation’) were pioneered by social movements from the late nineteenth century; but do not appear globally until the 1990’s, and even then obliquely and hotly contested.  A stream of debates around women’s rights, reproduction and fertility and abortion (which became know as ‘reproductive politics’), children’s rights, sexual violence and HIV Aids gradually established a space for a language of sexual rights. Espoused by women’s groups, HIV/AIDS groups and gay and lesbian lobbies (mainly ILGA, ARC and SIR), and latterly human rights movements such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the main antagonists have always been the conservative wings of religious and family movements, creating strange ‘unholy alliances’ between the Holy See and the Traditional Mullahs through the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).


By contrast, a broad programme of gay, lesbian and transgender rights have been more readily put into place through the European Union through The Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999 and Article 21 of The Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2009.


Recent core U.N. moments have included:


2012: General Assembly passed resolution A/C.3/67/l.36 condemning arbitrary and extrajudicial executions –  and this included both ‘gender identity’ and ‘sexual orientation’ within its orbit. (This is part of a long struggle over terminology) Opposed by the usual lobbies (many of whom walked out of the debate), the full resolution passed with 108 votes in favor, 1 against, 65 abstentions, and 19 absent.

2011: South Africa requested  the General Assembly to draft a report detailing the situation of LGBT citizens worldwide ( Vienna Declaration). It was passed (23 to 19) and the report was published in December. It documented violations of the rights of LGBT people, including hate crime, criminalization of homosexuality, and discrimination.

2010:  The Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, expressed his concern in a speech on Human Rights Day when he stated:
As men and women of conscience, we reject discrimination in general, and in particular discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity … Where there is a tension between cultural attitudes and universal human rights, rights must carry the day. Together, we seek the repeal of laws that criminalize homosexuality, that permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, that encourage violence

2006-7:  The Yogyakarta Principles layed out a universal guide international principles relating to human rights and sexual orientation & gender identity – standards with which all States must comply.

2004-5: The Brazil Proposal brought a backlash in 2004 and 2005. Languages and ideas of sexual orientation and even HIV were under attack.

2003-4:  Brazilian Resolution: a resolution entitled, Human Rights and Sexual Orientation, and modeled on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is proposed by Brazil, without consulting other potential international supprters! It failed.

2001: Amnesty International: publishes Crimes of Hate. Conspiracy of Silence: Torture and Ill Treatment based on Sexual Identity 2001

1997: WHO issued a joint statement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) against the practice of FGM.

1996: ILGA Europe Established, which can play a more prominent role in the UN as it is not excluded

1995: The Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, resulting in global Platform for Action for women’s equality, empowerment and justice 47,000 people attend. A group of 35 women from the Lesbian Caucus unfurled a large banner from a balcony. The banner read: Lesbian Rights are Human Rights. It was also the ‘ Year of the Muslim Woman”

1994: ILGA recognized briefly in UN – but dropped because of presumed links with paedophilia

Cairo:   International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) put sexual rights and sexual health on the table

1994-6  UNAIDS established by the UN for a global and expansive response to HIV/AIDS

1993: The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women affirms that violence against women violates their human rights.

1989:Convention on the Rights of the Child (and which starts to raise the public debate of age of consent

1985:The Third World Conference on Women, Nairobi outlines the ‘Forward-Looking’ strategy

1980:The Second World Conference on Women. Copenhagen

1979:Adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the only international treaty on women’s human rights
1978:ILGA established in Coventry (originally as IGA: lesbians added in 1968). Regionalisation later takes place and ILGA –Europe become the most developed in 1996

1975:The First World Conference on Women, Mexico – with 2,000 delegates from 133 different countries
See Girard, 2010; Parker et al. 2010; Correa, 2008; Petchesky, 2003. All on bibliography.


Ken Plummer: I am now retired and Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex. I can be contacted at and my main web site is Many of my earlier articles can be accessed there. The book Cosmopolitan Sexualities is due from Polity in early 2014. My earlier books include:

1975                          Sexual Stigma: An Interactionist Account  Routledge
1981 ed                     The Making of the Modern Homosexual  Hutchinson
1991 ed                     Modern Homosexualities   Routledge
1995                          Telling  Sexual Stories: Power, Change and Social Worlds  Routledge
2001 ed                     Sexualities : Four Volumes   Routledge
2003                          Intimate Citizenship


  1 comment for “Cosmopolitan Sexualities (Oxford Talk)

  1. March 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Dear Ken,

    We have never met but I thank you for sharing your inside knowledge with others. Very inspiring, very kind,very resilient. We both share the belief that the world should always welcome lovers and I learned from you.
    Looking forward to your cosmopolitan sexualities book in a period that sexual diversity divide again!

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