Ken Plummer

(e mail: plumkessex@gmail.com; blog: kenplummer.com)

Centre for Sex, Gender and Sexualities, Durham University,

Summer School 2nd /3rd July, 2015




In this lecture I will briefly revisit my study Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change and Social Worlds (TSS), published some twenty years ago.  I ask how it came to be written and consider what some of the original contributions the book might have made, against a background of continuing change and transformation. I ask how the world has moved on in many ways since; and ‘upgrade’ some of the arguments and examples of the book. I will look especially at: a model of story telling, a typology of story genres, ‘the story of a story’, and the significance of change and the development of World Narratives, Digital Narratives and the widening and deepening of inequalities.


Looking ahead, I see a central challenge for both narrative theory and critical sexualities studies in the future to be the development of a better understanding of Narrative Power, which can be studied empirically, analytically and normatively. Power was a key idea in TSS but now needs bridging into a Politics of Narrative Empathy, a Politics of Narrative Inequalities, a Politics of Narrative States and a Politics of Narrative Hope. Distinguishing between micro narratives and macro narratives, I suggest we need to think in the future of the long-term political strategies and tactics for this narrative politics.


For sexualities scholars, this might mean developing A Politics of Critical Sexualities Narratives – using our work to challenge narrative hegemonies (counter narratives etc) as well as creating new visions of grounded Narrative Hope. Distinguishing positive normativity from negative normativity, I tentatively look at what ‘good sex’ and ‘bad sex’ might mean; and argue for research stories of Intimate Citizenship, Cosmopolitan Sexualities and Inclusive Sexualities. Humanist narratives of grounded utopian hope must create bridges across the workings of local and state power to enable the flourishing of better human sexual worlds. Indeed, I close by suggesting that part of our future debate must include thinking about the values of what it means to be human and what it means for humans to flourish in a better world. I will close with a very tentative check-list of possibilities, which we can at least start to ponder.

Introductory: Situating ‘Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change and Social Worlds’ (TSS)
Narrative Tellings: Lessons from ‘TSS-Telling Sexual Stories’ Twenty Years On?

A model of story telling: Narrative Reality/Narrative Analysis
A typology of story genres: Narrative Genre

‘The story of a story’: Narrative Contingency

Social change, social structure and stories: Narrative Transformations

– World Narratives, Digital Narratives, Narratives of Inequality, leading to-

A Politics of Story Telling and Narrative Power
Narrative Power: Developing a Politics of Story Telling

Empirical: Grounded story studies

Analytic: Building a political theory of storytelling
Normative: Envisioning humanist narratives of humanist grounded utopian hope

Distinguishing between micro narratives and macro narratives, I suggest we need to think in the future of the long-term political strategies and tactics for this narrative politics.

A Politics of Narrative Empathy,

a Politics of Narrative Inequalities,

a Politics of Narrative States

a Politics of Narrative Hope.
Narrative Hope: Dreaming Ahead: A Politics of Critical Sexualities Narratives

Normativity – positive and negative/ ‘good sex’ and ‘bad sex’

Intimate Citizenship, Cosmopolitan Sexualities and Inclusive Sexualities.

Grounded utopian hope and Humanist Values ?


Telling Sexual Stories Twenty Years On
What was its contribution and how has the analysis of sexual stories changed?

  1. Narrative Reality: A Model of Story Telling

There is much more to stories than texts.


Much recent work is concerned with texts and now there has been a whole explosion of writing to examine the best way to make sense of ‘texts’. This did not exist when I started out.

Amongst others, we now have content analysis, argumentation analysis, semiotic analysis, rhetorical analysis, interpretive phenomenological analysis, discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis, situational analysis, conversational analysis, free associational analysis, biographic-narrative analysis, thematic analysis, visual analysis and many others. “ All may have their role to play; but too much ‘science’, ‘rigour’, ‘formality’ can overwhelm our tales. All can indeed reveal a partial truth; but many additional skills are needed to complement them” (Manifesto).


BUT the key point of TSS was always wider: to move beyond literary or cultural analysis: to a socio-historical analysis of the Social Flow Of Stories – Creating, Appreciating, Live Stories

Appreciating narratives: strategies for analysing stories

Creating Narratives: examining ways stories are told

Living stories: ethics & politics of stories

And since then, a major proliferation of writings. There are now wider, different approaches such as Arthur Frank’s Letting Stories Breathe.


See: The Model of Story Telling: Stories as Joint Actions (Plummer, TSS 1995: p23



  1. Narrative Genre

How do we develop the ‘generic elements’ of sexual stories?

In TSS, three major archetypal narrative forms or structures were given attention: notably narratives of ‘coming out’, ‘trauma & crisis’ and ‘recovery’ Closely linked was a model of how narratives, identities of gender and sexuality cohere into Simmelian forms- “the generic elements modernist stories” p54. I only looked at three – others need now to be explored. There was also an argument about developing postmodern stories. See Appendix 2 on 10 stories; and my new book Cosmopolitan Sexualities on a hundred or more new stories!


In some later writings I have explored ‘the seven types of stories’ (building on the work of Christopher Booker, Smith and Watson, and others). And of interest too are the story structures from other fields: for example the sickness stories of Arthur W Frank’s The Wounded Storyteller (Restitution, Chaos, Quest) published in the same year as TSS. Or the much more recently published political stories of the political scientist, Eric Selbin, a scholar of revolutions, who in Revolution, Rebellion, Resistance: The Power of Story (2010) suggests four different types of “revolutionary story” from revolutionary struggles (from the French Revolution to the present day). He calls these the ‘Civilizing and Democratizing’, ‘The Social Revolution’, ‘Freedom and Liberation’ and ‘The Lost and Forgotten’ Narratives – found across time and space as ‘the crucible of revolutionary action’. A goal of our narrative work is to cumulatively deepen the understanding of narrative genres.


  1. Narrative Transformations: Social Change and Narrative

How have stories changed from post-modern (90’s) to now (neo-patriarchal/neo-liberal) new millenium?
THEN I stressed postmodern narratives. NOW I suggest


Digitalisation of sexual stories – on line sex stories, Grindr, Gaydar and the rest

e.g. John Hartley & Kelly McWilliam Story Circle: Digital Storytelling around the world (2009)
Bryan Alexander The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media (2011) Pra

Joe Lambert Digital storytelling (2012 4th edition) Routledge

Feona Attwood ed Porn. Com: Making Sense of Online Pornography (2010) Pete Lang New York

Shaka McGlotten, Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect, and Queer Sociality (2013)

Sharif Mowlabacus Gaydar Culture: Gay Men, Technology and Embodiment in the Digital Age (2010)
Globalisation of sexual stories – India, Uganda, Nigeria and on…
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)

Kong, Travis                                                 Male Homosexualities in China (2010)

Sylvia Tamale                                              African Sexualities A Reader (2011)
Richard Parker at al                                    Sex Politics: Reports from the Front Lines ( 2010)
Sonia Correa, Rosalind Petchesky & Peter Aggleton Sexuality, Health and Human Rights (2008)
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)

The Inequalities of sexual stories – Inequality and the 1%
Danny Dorling                              Inequality and the 1% (2014)
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)
Goran Therborn                            The Killing Fields of Inequalities (2013)
Andrew Sayer                             Why we cant afford the rich (2014)

  1. The Story of a Story: Narrative Contingencies
    What is the life story of the story- a cycle of birth to death? Why are some stories told rather than others? What are the contingencies that shape story making: the who, what, where, when, why and how of narratives?

THEN I suggested a little political model of constructing stories – stages that I there call “the generic process of telling sexual stories” p126 . It is this move from ‘inner worlds (of telling stories to the self privately) to an increasingly public one where the circle of discourse becomes wider and wider that I think is most important but few have taken it up to my knowledge. As I say: “In the earliest moments, the story can hardly be imagined; it may be told privately as a tale to oneself. Later it gets told to a few people – a lover, a friend, a psychiatrist. Slowly it can move out into a public domain where it comes to take on a life of its own. It becomes part of a public discourse….” P126


NOW: I suggest the story of the story: Ultimately, we have to consider the full way stories are born and die. Where do the stories go to die? How are they born?


  1. Narrative Void: Narrative Absence, Narrative Silence and Putative Narratives
  2. Narrative Birth: Narrative Creativity, Narrative Imagining and Narrative Visualizing
  3. Narrative Voice: Narrative Articulating
  4. Narrative Identity
  5. Narrative Mobilization and Community Making.
  6. Public Narratives/ Private Narratives
  7. Narrative Hegemony and Routinization
  8. Narrative Negotiation:
  9. Narrative Entropy and Death


  1. Narrative Power: Creating a Politics of stories
    How does storytelling move “in the stream of power” p26

    What kinds of narratives work to empower people and which degrade, control and dominate? ..What strategies enable stories to be told, how are spaces created for them, and how are voices silenced?.. How do stories feed into the wider networks of routine power?.. Who has access to stories?.. Where is the reader located in the political spectrum?.. What cultural and economic resources – literacy, knowledge, money, time, space – are needed to consume a story?.. How might various strategies of talk be implicated in this story telling?.. How do stories sit with the wider frameworks of power? ……… (Plummer, 1995: pp29-31)


Narrative Power: Developing a Humanist Politics Of Storytelling

How are we to change the hearts and minds of people through stories?


Torturing bodies is less effective than shaping minds Castells: Networks of Outrage and Hope p5
The key idea here may be Narrative Power. This speaks to the capacities of both (a) texts and (b) story tellers and listeners to control or regulate the voices and stories of others. We ask how does power – domination, subordination, authority and legitimacy, flourishing and autonomy – work its way through stories? And how do different narratives fit with different kinds of political systems?
ASIDE: The book was based on a Symbolic Interactionist Theory of Power (which I still work with)
Story Telling Flows in the Stream of Power


“Stories are not just practical and symbolic actions: they are also part of the political process. Sexual stories ooze through the political stream. Power is not so much an all or nothing phenomenon, which people either have or don’t have, and which resides either here or there. Rather it is best viewed as a flow, a process, a pulsate – oscillating and undulating throughout the social world and working to pattern the degree of control people experience and have over their lives. Power is the process which shifts outcomes and distributes control and regulation. It effects hierarchy, patterns of domination, and the distribution of resources. It connects processes that make a difference to the conduct of life. Power is not a simple attribute or a capacity, but a flow of negotiations and shifting outcomes. As electricity is to the physical world, so power may be to the social world: it is the conduit through which much life gets enacted. But its shapes and forms are immensely varied. Like the air we breathe, or the blood that flows through our veins, it is an omnipresent. It is not a property of people per se, nor is it a zero-sum: we do not either have it or not have it. Instead it flows through all interaction, though in starkly different ways. It is both negative – repressing, oppressing, depressing – and positive – constructive, creative, constitututive. It flows into lives making some abundant in capacity (empowered, actualised) and others diminished (inferiorised, marginalised, weak, victims). It flows into situations making some open, flexible and participatory and others closed, rigid and limiting. It flows through the habitual networks of social activity making some alive with possibilities (democratic, participatory) and others infused with oppression and dominance (hierarchic, authoritarian). And ultimately it flows through the whole negotiated social order – controlling and empowering, closing and opening, making some things possible and others things impossible. Power is a process that weaves its way through embodied, passionate social life and everything in its wake. Sexual stories live in this flow of power. The power to tell a story, or indeed to not tell a story under the conditions of ones own choosing, is part of the political process” (TSS: Page 26)


Power can be studied in many ways. Three are apparent though they are often interconnected and cannot always be easily separated out: (A) an empirical approach which examines evidence on power at work in governments, in polling booths, in social movements, in stories; (B) analytic/theoretic which asks definitional, conceptual and clarificatory questions; and (C) normative which asks about better systems of power and often advocates a politics ( green, feminists, conservative, radical, queer).


We can add many others – geographies of power, histories of power, and, most important of all: the pragmatics or practicalities of power. This is not the place to unpack all this. But we need to think what each might have to say to help us in more fully developing a politics of storytelling.

  1. Empirical/ Substantive: Case Studies on the Politics of Storytelling

Some examples could Include:
Kay Schafer & Sidonie Smith (2004) Human Rights and Narrated Lives Palgrave

Ken Plummer (2003) Intimate Citizenship (2003) University of Washington

Molly Andrews (2007) Shaping history: Narratives of political change Cambridge
Charles Tilly (2002) Stories, identities and political change Rowman & Littlefield

Michael Jackson (2002) The Politics of storytelling Museum Tusculanum Press

Jeffrey Alexander (2011) Trauma Polity
Francesca Poletta (2006) It was like a fever: storytelling in protest and politics Chicago

Selbin, Eric (2010) Revolution, Rebellion. Resistance: The Power of Story. London: Zed Books
Rickie Sollinger et al (2008) Telling stories to change the world Routledge

Joseph Davis (2002) Stories of Change: Narrative and social movements   SUNY
Nick Couldry (2010) Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics after Neoliberalism Sage


  1. Analytic/Theoretical: Developing a new analysis of Power Narratives

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
Some reading:
Hannah Arendt The Human Condition (1958)

William James The Writings. Edited by John J McDermott (1977)

Bryan S Turner Human Rights and Vulnerability (2006)
Catriona Mackenzie et al Vulnerability: New Essays in Ethics and Feminist Philosophy (2014)
Martha Nussbaum    Creating Capabilities (2011)

Iris Marion Young     Justice and the politics of difference (1990) Princeton
There is both a

  • macro bridge to wider political systems –totalitarian (the closure of all stories?), authoritarian (the regulation of all stories?), monarchic, tribal, democratic (procedural, liberal, social… deliberative , participatory etc…) (the opening of stories within certain limits and boundaries?), and Cosmopolitanism Narratives (the possible free dialogues of multiple stories?). And
  • micro bridges to everyday worlds of vulnerabilities: embodiment, feelings, selves and identities, memories, subjectivities and the like.

There are the many stories but only a few get heard. We can see power at work in the stories (who gets the voice? who shapes the plot?) and power outside the stories (who lets it be heard? Who silences the story?) as well as power mediated between them…….This raises complicated questions about the state, the media, the flows of control: of elite tales and mass tales. And their linkage to human beings. A sprinkling of analytic ideas to be developed here might include…..

The life story of stories: the life and death of narratives; Narrative Voice; Narrative silencing; Narrative articulations; Narrative closure; Narrative inequality; Narrative justice; Narrative privilege ;Narrative inclusion; Narrative exclusion ;Narrative trauma; Narrative degradation; Narrative resources ; Narrative capital; Narrative elites; Totalitarian Narratives; Authoritarian Narratives; Democratic Narratives; Cosmopolitan Narratives; Narrative Hegemony; Narrative Discourse; Narrative Ideology; Narrative Agonistics; Mediated Narratives; State Narratives; Narrative Negotiation; Narrative Performance; Narrative Embodiment; Narrative Identity; Narrative Emotions


  1. Normative/ Positive/ Ethical: Developing a Politics of Positive-Normative Narratives

see section 3.
Sampling global values and humanism, see:
On histories of ethics: Hans Joas, The Sacredness of the Person (2013); Philip Kitcher, The Ethical Project (2011); Kenan Milk, The Quest for a Moral Compass (2014). Classic works of modern humanist values include Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1958), Martha Nussbaum Cultivating Humanity (1997) and Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach (2011) Harvard. Steven Lukes, Liberals and Cannibals: The Implications of Diversity [2003) See also: Andrew Sayers, Why Things Matter to People Cambridge: 2011 and Christian Smith, What is a Person: Rethinking Humanity, Social Life , and the Moral Good from the Person Up. 2010. Chicago; On global ethics, see 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). On Dialogic Ethics, see Michel Bakhtin The Dialogic Imagination ; Jurgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action (1992) ; Ronald C. Arnett et al Communication, Ethics, Literacy: Dialogue and Difference. 2009 ; Seyla Benhabib, The Claims of Culture: Equality and diversity in the global era (2002); On Justice, see Michael J Sandel Justice: What’s the Right Thing To Do? (2009); Amytra Sen The Idea of Justice [2009]; Ronald C Arnett Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference (2009); Seyla Benhabib, Dignity in Adversity: Human Rights in Troubled Times (2012) Polity; Michael Slote, The Ethics of Care and Sympathy: [2007] Kay Schaffer and Sidonie Smith Human Rights and Narrated Lives: The Ethics of Recognition Palgrave 2004.
Note: A Politics of Narrative Inequalities


Cultures And Structures Of Social Inequalities In Which Narratives And Stories Are Embedded     Stories and narratives that display….


  1 Class Order Classism and class consciousness
  2 Gender Order (& patriarchy) Sexism and gender identity
  4 Age stratification and generational orders Ageism and generational self
  5 Nations Nationalism and national identity
  6 The sexual order Heterosexism, homophobia & heteronormativity: sexual identity
  7 The disability and health order Sickness and ‘disablement’ ideologies: health/ability identity



Note: A Politics of Narrative Empathy: Listening to the stories of the lives of others whose world may be different from yours is a pre-requisite for democratic functioning, for the working of societies seeking a respect and recognition for human differences. As we hear tales of sorrow and suffering, of outsiders and the excluded, of strangers and the marginal, of the colonized and the wretched of the earth, of the stigmatised, the outsider, and ‘the other’, so stories deepen our sympathies, our imaginations, our critiques of a damaged world. It is why stories are so often used by social movements, by reformers and campaigners, by educators and by humanitarian activists to provide exemplars and case studies to help us all see the need for and possibilities of social change. Stories of political change are thus to be found in ‘political spectacles’ everywhere: in news stories; in commissions, tribunals and government reports; in personal testimony and celebrity stories; in historical and anthropological case studies; in documentary film and photo; in journalistic reportage, interviews, blog activism: all those media which tell us daily of a failing world we need to change. Stories help fashion political identities, political campaigns, imagined communities, discourses of the ‘others’, the literature of human rights: and in all this, political change for the better becomes more feasible. We ask, then, how our moral and political lives are fuelled by stories (Manifesto: p217 in Stanley 2013).


Building Narrative Empathy
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)
Abu-Lughod, Lila Do women need saving (2013)
Momin Rahman Homosexualities, Muslim cultures and Modernity (2014)



Normative Narratives and a Politics of Critical Sexualities Narratives

How do we cultivate a normative humanist sexualities in a better world for all?


Pasts, Presents and Futures: The Good News and the Bad News.

The ‘Progress” of Critical Sexualities Research….. A World We Have Won?

But also: The Dark World in Crisis – of Capitalism, of Environment, of Religion, of ‘Humanity’.

The Chaotic Void: Miserabilism, Misanthropy, Melancholia – and Fear

The Human Condition: Ontologies of Plurality and Vulnerability
The Vulnerabilities of Bodies, Relationships, Cultures and Environments……

“The inevitability of disappointment and the importance of hope”: stories of suffering and joy

Dreaming Ahead: Envisioning Better Worlds and Narratives to Help with this

Local tactics and wider strategies of narrative hope.

Intimate Citizenship, Cosmopolitan Sexualities and Inclusive Sexualities.


DREAMING AHEAD: What are visions of ‘Better Worlds’: Narrative Hope, Global Narratives and Utopian Narratives?


If there is anything distinctive about pragmatism, it is that it substitutes the notion of a better human future for the notions of ‘reality’, ‘reason’ and ‘nature’. Richard Rorty: Philosophy and Social Hope

The creation of Utopias – and their exhaustive criticism- is the proper and distinctive method of sociology HG Wells Sociological Papers: 1906

What we can do is…make life a little less terrible and a little less unjust in every generation. A good deal can be achieved in this way. Karl Popper, 1949         

‘Dreaming ahead’ Ernst Bloch, 1938-

On The Inevitability of Disappointment and the Importance of Hope
Ruth Levitas Utopia as Method (2013); Jeffrey Weeks The World We Have Won ( 2007), Ernest Bloch The Principle of Hope (1938-47), Eric Olin Wright Envisioning Real Utopias (2010), José Estaban Muñoz Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity(2008)

NORMATIVE NARRATIVES OF INITIMATE CITIZENSHIP, COSMOPOLITAN SEXUALITIES AND INCLUSIVE SEXUALITIES: The return to humanist values: Empathy, Care, Rights and Dignity, Justice and Human Flourishing? Dialogue and Democracy?


See Ken Plummer Intimate Citizenship (2003) and Cosmopolitan Sexualities ( 2015)
How to build positive stories – and norms –to help carry us ahead? Research as the ongoing search for The Grounded (everyday, practical, pragmatic) Narratives and Practices of a ”Decent Common Humanity” – a ‘Trans-humanist Ethics” across cultures: living good lives with each other through our differences What are the little utopian processes of everyday life? What are these stories? And how to tell stories to bring about social transformations for a better world?
A grounded cosmopolitan ethics suggests some stories we struggle with in daily situations including:

  • a common human caring – stories of looking after each other, belonging to some groups and identifying with them, but also looking after others not so close, and even the environment? There is surely an affinity here to what is commonly called ‘love’.
  • a common human struggle for empathy – stories of valuing the need to understand and dialogue with each other. There is an affinity here to what is commonly called ‘compassion’.
  • a common human dignity – stories of the basic common human right to recognize human worth and to live a life with out unique differences. There is a link here with rights, but rights alone will not do.
  • a common sense of human fairness – stories of basic freedoms, equality and justice.
  • a common human flourishing – stories of enabling all people to live full, good lives.

This is tentative; there are no grand claims here: we have to start somewhere.

The Dark Narratives of Sexual Life

1Intolerant sexualities
: the lack of appreciation of sexual differences and the closure of dialogues about sexualities

2Unkind sexualities, sexual violence and cruel sexualities: sexualities become embroiled in being unkind to the others: often cruelty, violence, and hatred.

3Dehumanized sexualities: treating sexual others with no dignity or respect and lacking any rights to their own sexualities.

4Wasted sexualities: unfulfilled sexualities lacking in any kind of ‘quality’
5Unfair and unequal sexualities: sexual lives damaged through poverty, competition, greed and the stark inequalities of intersecting class, gender, race, age and nation.

Inclusive sexualities are those that can embrace sexual and gender complexity and variety. They humanize sexualities through an awareness minimally of the following guidance:

  1. Cultural Sexualities: Appreciate the varieties of cultural sexual and gender differences and complexity, and the struggle between the local and the global.
  2. Contested Sexualities: Recognise the ubiquity of agonistic conflicts and look for peaceful resolutions.
  3. Dialogic Sexualities: Know yourself, recognize the other, identify power and move toward a common mutual horizon.
  4. Empathic Sexualities: Understand others – appreciate and dialogue with your sexual partners and their worlds.
  5. Caring Sexualities: Be kind -care for the sexual other as well as your self; and work to reduce violence.
  6. Just Sexualities: Seek justice- create free, fair and equal relations.
  7. Dignified Sexualities: Foster human rights and dignity – respect others, their dignity and their rights being aware of their fragility and vulnerability
  8. Flourishing Sexualities: Encourage lives to flourish – foster relational flourishing for all across gender and sexuality.
  9. Hopeful Sexualities: Be positive and work for better worlds for all – keep hopeful in sexual relations. Reduce harm? Peace not truth? Light not heavy?
  10. Pragmatic Sexualities: Stay Grounded and Be Practical- Keep at it; it’s not easy!








Grounded practices
Reconstructing societies
Boundaries and dangers


Global Politics Global Ethics
“Trans-Humanist Ethics”?


Sociology Of Sufferings

Damaged Lives

1: Empathy:

Understand others

Empathic, Dialogic Society
Danger of monologue, authoritarianism


The human self and role taking
Global evolution of empathy?
Politics of Recognition
Dialogic ethics

Interpretive Sociology
Multiculturalism and standpoint Representational Sociology
Relational Sociology
Narrative-Dialogic Sociology

Invisible, Disempowered and Neglected Lives

2: Care: Be Kind
Caring, Secure,Non-violent Society
Danger of cruelty and violence

Politics and Ethics of Care
Human Security
Sociology of Care and Kindness
Brutalised Lives
Abused Lives
3: Rights: Treat people with ‘dignity’, and the rights that follow from this

Human’ Society – with dignity for all people. A Culture of Human Rights

Danger of dehumanisation


Politics and Ethics of Dignity
Politics and Ethics of Rights and Duties

Sociology of Human Rights
Sociology of the Person and Dignity

Undignified Lives
Dehumanised Lives
4: Flourish: Help others to have flourishing lives

Flourishing Society
Danger of Wasted Lives

Politics of Humanity and Capabilities

Virtue Ethics

Sociology of Human capabilities and Human Flourishing
Sociology of Good and Better Lives

Damaged and wasted lives

5: Justice:
Be fair, treat people equally

Just /Fair Society

Dangers of Inequalities


Politics of Redistribution
Justice ethics


Intersectionality and standpoints
Real Inequalities Marx, Feminism, Ant- Race Theory, Bourdieu etc

Unequal Lives
a) Hope: Caution through the inevitability of disappointment but the importance of hope  

The Politics of Grounded Real Utopias; and everyday practices

Sociology of Hope
Problems of Pessimism
Humanities inhumanity to inhumanity
b) Be Practical Pragmatism
The Local
Bridging the micro and macro

Individualism -holism







In this lecture I reflect backwards to dream forward. I look at some of the stories that have emerged over my life as a researcher, consider their contingencies (personal, situational and historical) and hint at ways ahead.


THE 1960’s


1 STORIES OF SEXUAL STIGMA circa 1965- included stories of ‘deviance’, shame, marginality, dissidence, the dispossessed, alterity and the abject etc): the problem of understanding the power of labels and constructions…..“Living with shame, secrecy, guilt, isolation : the move towards understanding the dehumanization


2 STORIES OF SEXUAL POLITICS circa 1970- included movement stories, coming out stories, feminist stories etc. The problem of understanding the link between the personal and the political and the weakness of the purely academic and the isolation of disciplines; the move towards understanding narrative power


The 1970’s


3 STORIES OF SEXUAL MULTIPLICTIES AND VARIETY circa 1976- included tales of sexual difference and linked to ‘Transformative Tales’?) The problems of methods to research and understand the plural universe – “Learning to live with multiplicities, change, complexities and ambiguities”: understanding multiplicities


4 STORIES OF GENDERED SEXUALITIES circa 1976 – included abuse, violence and masculinity stories; leading outwards ultimately to the problems of understanding ‘intersectionality’…

“Being a man must never be taken for granted but problematized: gender – and other social divisions- runs deep and shapes the world”


THE 1980’s


5 STORIES OF AIDS- APOCALYPTIC SEXUAL STORIES circa 1981- included AIDS narratives, stories of embodiment, tales of suffering, surviving and surpassing; of vulnerabilities; stories of the dispossessed)

“The existential moment of death, suffering and humanity’s inhumanity to humanity”: understanding the dark voi.d.


SETTLING INTO NARRATIVES (circa 1976-2000): Documents of Life (1983)


6 STORIES OF CHANGING SEXUALITIES: POSTMODERN /TRANSFORMATIVE circa 1988 – including the making of a vast array of new kinds of sexual stories ranging from Stories of Techno sexualities, Mediated sexualities, Electronic sexualities to Stories of Violent sexualities, Individualized/Reflexive sexualities, and Globalised sexualities. Grasping a new world in the making without falling into a linear trend.


7 STORIES OF QUEER SEXUALITIES AND SEXUAL/INTIMATE CITIZENSHIP circa 1990- including queer stories, body stories, rights stories, citizenship stories. The problems of grasping and handling the continuing tensions between transgression and citizenship


8 STORIES OF GLOBAL SEXUALITIES circa 1990 – including cultural stories, nation stories, transnational stories, post colonial stories: Stories of Migrating sexualities, Post-Honour sexualities, Sacred, secular and fundamentalist sexualities, Pauperised sexualities. The need to recognise a world stage and the problems ethnocentrism: of “From now on, the world goes global”.




9 STORIES OF GENERATIONAL SEXUALITIES circa 2008 – including generational languages, embodiments, cultures, politics, theories etc. To grasp in research that “Every story dangles from a generational standpoint”


10 STORIES OF COSMOPOLITAN SEXUALITIES circa 2010 – a multiplicity of stories from around the world engaging with each other- to understand how we can live, personally, politically, ethically and theoretically with each other and our differences.


(11 STORIES OF HUMANIST SEXUALITIES circa 1995 – stories of empathic sexuality, care, justice, sexual rights, human flourishing. The need to clarify Normative Stories)


* Note: This is only a roughly chronological listing of how the stories appeared in my research life. It is not precise nor exhaustive- many others, such as ‘coming out stories’, ‘abuse stories’, ‘ therapeutic stories’, ‘body stories’, ‘illness stories’ and ‘inequality/ intersectional stories’ etc have also emerged.




1 On Stigma Stories. See Sexual Stigma (1975); 2011: ‘Labelling Theory Revisited: Forty years on’ in Helge Peters & Michael Dellwing eds Langweiliges Verbrechen (Boring Crimes) Weisbaden: VS Verlag p83-103

2 On Political Stories. See: The Making of the Modern Homosexual (1981); Modern Homosexualities (1991); 1998 ‘The Lesbian and Gay Movement in the UK, 1965-1995: Schism, Solidarities, and Social Worlds” in Gay and Lesbian Movements Since the 1960’s (ed Barry Adam, Jan Willem Duyvendak & Andre Krouwel) Temple University Press, 1998. Forthcoming ‘Narrative Power, Sexual Stories and the Politics of Story Telling’ in Ivor Goodson ed The International Handbook on Life Stories and Narratives

3 On Plural Stories. See Symbolic Interactionism and Sexual Differentiation (1979) ESRC Report; Telling Sexual Stories (1995); 2012 ‘Critical Sexualities Studies’ – in George Ritzer ed Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Sociology Blackwell (2012) p243-268; Cosmopolitan Sexualities (2015)

4 On Gendered Stories (1976 – see: ‘The Social Uses of sexuality: Symbolic Interaction, Power and Rape’, in J. Hopkins ed. Victims of Sexual Assault, 37-56, Wiley, London, l985.; ‘Sexual Diversity: A Sociological Approach’, in K. Howells ed. The Psychology of Sexual Diversity, 2l9-253, Blackwell, Oxford, l984.; ‘Genders in Question ‘Preface to Richard Eakin & Dave King’s Gender Blending, 1995, Routledge; Masculinity, homosexuality and homophobia, (1988) Unit for Open University, Level 2, Social Welfare.; ‘ Male Sexuality’ in The Handbook of Masculinity Studies, edited by Robert Connell, Jeff Hearn & Michael Kimmel (Sage, 2004)

5 On Apocalyptic Stories (1981- See ‘Organising AIDS’ in P. Aggleton and H. Homans ed Social Aspects of AIDS, 20-51, Falmer Press, l988.

  1. On Transformational Stories: Telling Sexual Stories (1995); Intimate Citizenship (2003); ‘Intimate Choices’ , in Gary Browing, Abigail Halci & Frank Webster eds Theory and Society : Understanding the Present London : Sage, 2000 : Ch 2, Cosmopolitan Sexualities (2015)

7 (a) On Queer Stories (1989- I On Queer, see “I Can’t Even Think Straight: Queer Theory and the Missing Revolution in Sociology”, with Arlene Stein, Sociological Theory 12: 2 July 1994 pp178-187. ‘Queering the Interview’, with Travis Kong and Dan Mahoney in Jaber Gubrium et al eds The Handbook of Interviewing, London, Sage ( 2001)p239-58; 2011: ‘Critical Humanism & Queer Theory’ with new afterword and comment ‘Moving On’: 4th edition of Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research
(b) On Rights and Citizenship Stories See: ‘The Square of Intimate Citizenship’ Citizenship Studies, Vol 5, No 3, November 2001 p237-53.; ‘Rights Work: constructing lesbian, gay and sexual rights in late modern times’ Rights ed Lydia Morris. (Routledge: 2006: Ch 8 p152-167). ; 2010: ‘The Social Reality of Sexual Rights’, in Peter Aggleton at al eds Routledge Handbook of Sexuality, Health and Rights . Routledge. P45-55

8 On Global Stories (1987 – Intimate Citizenship (2003); Cosmpolitan Sexualities (2015); ‘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); ‘Critical Humanism in a Post-Modern World’ Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Volume 25, 2001 p291-301.

  1. On Generational Stories See 2010: ‘Generational Sexualities, Subterranean Traditions, and the Hauntings of the Sexual World: Some Preliminary Remarks. Symbolic Interaction. Vol 33. N0 2 p163-191; 2015 ‘Afterword: Liberating Generations: Continuities And Change in The Radical Queer Western Era’ in David Paternotte and Manon Tremblay, eds (2015) Ashgate Companion to Lesbian and Gay Activism.   Ashgate

10 On Cosmopolitan Stories. See Cosmopolitan Sexualities (2015)



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