Davy, Z., Santos, A. C., Bertone, C., Thoresen, R., & Wieringa, S. E. (Eds.). (2020). SAGE Handbook of Global Sexualities (Vol. 1 & 2). London: Sage.

wo-volume handbook about sexualities across the globe  emerges at a time when the topic has acquired a recognizably new significance. Sexuality and sexual politics are again a key battlefield for the deep political cleavages of our time, a point of coalescence of current struggles on the fate of the modern subject and of a social organization based on gender binarism.

Sexuality captures the powerful connection between the personal and the political. The field of sexuality studies is expanding. Critical knowledge of sexuality, the questioning of an essentialist view of sexuality as the expression of the subject’s inner truth, is confronted today with powerful global tendencies to re-naturalize social hierarchies, with the reaffirmation of gender binarism and racialized boundaries. Politically, the rise of populism and the extreme-right in the Trump-era, fueled by related religious fundamentalisms, strengthens the responsibility of producing academically-sound work that can be widely read and used in our collective struggle for a fairer world. In the 21st century sexual freedom is met with both resilient oppressions that remain engrained in law and culture, and new forms of backlash perpetrated by self-proclaimed defenders of family values and children’s best interest.

The Vatican is not the only religious institution to have chosen the sexual as a major battlefield. Advocates of fundamentalist streams within Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam too enforce sexual-moral injunctions, typically targeting women and sexual and gender minorities to advance their moral-religious agendas.

The Handbook represents a sustained effort to cover an array of topics, disciplines and geographical locations, reflecting the field in its time. It is characterized by its timely, controversial and plural approach to sexualities. The Sage Handbook of Global Sexualities consists of two volumes, seven parts and 23 chapters.

Section 1,  Understanding sexuality: epistemologies and methodological challenges, explores some of the methodological problems encountered by sexuality researchers.

A focus is trying to uncover how and why sexuality is a topic that comes with particular boundaries of what (ethically) can and cannot be done – as well as the implications these have for how we understand it, who has the authority to create those understandings and what epistemological and political parameters researchers are working within to get a glimpse of the topic area. The collection of chapters in this section suggest avenues to interrogate further, challenging previous understandings as societies across the world unfold and reconfigure sexuality through changing theoretical, epistemological, methodological, political and disciplinary conditions.

The chapters collected in section 2,  Enforcing and challenging sexual norms, explore how norms render social life intelligible and at the same time discipline us into acceptable behaviors. They typically are sedimented in laws and customary and religious practices, and are instilled and (re) produced in the home, the educational sector and through the media. Tradition is often invoked to justify a certain normative order, but tradition is based on selective memory and subject to political and postcolonial mythmaking. Norms guide us in our daily decisions and govern our desires. Yet individual people do of course possess agency; though we don’t choose our desires we can make choices on how to live them. But not all choices are intelligible or acceptable. Those who do not live their gender or sexuality in accordance with prescribed norms are at risk in the political order they inhabit; they may be criminalized and stigmatized. Intelligibility of certain gendered and sexual norms varies in space and time, along axes of gender, age, ability, socio-economic status, religion and ethnicity. A central concept in this regard is heteronormativity which refers to a regime in which sexual conduct and kinship relations are organized in such a way that a particular form of heterosexuality becomes the culturally accepted ‘natural’ order.

In section 3,Undoing sexual categories the ways how categories are developed and challenged are discussed. This section contains chapters on BDSM, polyamory, chronic illness and HIV-positive people, as well as on hijras in South Asia and the challenges of being queer and Xhosa.

Section 4,  Sexuality and the market, takes a look at the social process and the marketization of sexuality. Intimate and sexual relations are often conceived as governed by different logics than those of market transactions. Under the modern, western construction of intimate relations, sexuality and economy are presented as “hostile worlds” that should avoid contamination. Yet topics such as the viagrization of older people’s sexuality, and the marketing of other forms of virility medicines as well as of  genital cosmetic surgery refute this argument. HIV prevention, pornography and sex work also have distinct relations to the market economy.

Section 5,  Sexual rights and citizenship (and the Governance of Sexuality),  looks at how governments, law and rights have developed in various places across the world. Sexualities have informed citizenship from the outset, long before they became acknowledged as a constitutive element of the relationship between individuals and rights within and beyond the nation-state. Amongst the many criteria used to enforce hierarchies and to promote exclusion from equality were the different values ascribed to gendered and sexually embodied experiences.

Section 6, Sexuality and social movements, focuses on challenges to sexual governance. Sexuality has long played a role in social mobilization. Along with the global anti-slavery movement, activists and organizations pressing for women’s rights are often hailed as one of the earliest influential transnational advocacy networks. In subsequent years, movements led by feminists, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, people living with HIV/AIDS, sex workers, intersex people, and other constituencies have all emerged as powerful political forces. In distinctive ways, each of these movements around sex and sexuality has not only affected formal politics, but has reshaped cultural norms, patterns of material distribution, and even the language people use.

Section 7, Language and cultural representation explores movements in the linguistic and cultural characterization of global sexualities through various mediums. Language both reflects and creates sexual and gendered norms and practices as a force that is both (re)productive, disciplinary and transformative. In language and in cultural representation, certain (racial, religious, ethnic) sexualities can be naturalized or abjected. Language can be used to both hide and reveal gendered and sexual subjectivities and practices. Sexual and gender dissidents can use cultural and linguistic practices to (re)imagine and represent themselves; conversely, language can praise, denounce and punish. Infused with moral injunctions of sin and pathology, for example, language has functioned as a major tool of enforcing heteronormativity and of abjecting non-binary persons – and it still does so in particular political and cultural settings.


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Davy, Z. ( 2020). Freedom Affects in Trans Erotica. In Z. Davy, A. C. Santos, C. Bertone, R. Thoresen, & S. E. Wieringa (Eds.), SAGE Handbook of Global Sexualities (Vol. 2, pp. 969-991). London: Sage.

This chapter begins to chart some reconfigurations of trans sexualities in trans erotica productions. Trans erotica expands on and reconfigures trans sexualities beyond psychosexological and mainstream trans (auto)biographical accounts. Considering a time in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, this chapter will explore when it was becoming evident in trans scholarship and community productions that there were as many different ‘transgenderisms’ as there were combinations of sex, gender and sexual identities, and sexual situations (Devor, 1994; Queen and Schimel, 1997). Drawing on the work of Shively, Jones and De Cecco from the 1980s, Holly Devor (1994), for example, argued that sexuality may be felt and expressed in such a variety of ways that heuristic models of human sexuality must not remain narrowly focused on questions of genital contact. From this position, a shift to more broadly defined questions about the social meanings and contexts within which trans sexual-relationships take place was required (Bowen, 1998; Feinberg, 1998, 2006 [1992]; Queen and Schimel, 1997). The legacy of these developments are still reverberating in trans communities.

Trans is a broad category usually used to mean any individual whose gender identity or presentation contests the assignment of ‘male’ or ‘female’ at birth or that mixes different aspects of masculinity and femininity, roles and identities. As such, trans people do not have one common developmental trajectory, but multiple possible trajectories (Diamond et al., 2011). As this chapter will demonstrate, trans individuals themselves and trans affirmative academics have engendered developments in our understanding of adults’ and children’s gender identifications and highlighted their perceptions about their own sexualities and sexual desires in all their complexity (Davy, 2011; Davy and Steinbock, 2012; Davy and Cordoba, 2019; Pfeffer, 2014). This was achieved alongside calling for a more inclusive conceptual framework that takes the voices and experiences of trans people seriously. Drawing on trans pornography and erotica in the 2000s, this chapter explores multiple forms of trans sexualitites.

Anitha, S., Jordan, A., Jameson, J., & Davy, Z. (2020 online first). A Balancing Act: Agency and Constraints in University Students’ Understanding of and Responses to Sexual Violence in the Night-Time Economy. Violence Against Women. doi:10.1177/1077801220908325

This article extends our understanding of how university students

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make sense of, and respond to, sexual violence in the night-time economy (NTE). Based on semi-structured interviews with 26 students in a city in England, we examine students’ constructions of their experiences of sexual violence within the NTE, exploring
their negotiations with, and resistance to, this violence. Building upon theories of postfeminism, we interrogate the possibilities for resistance within the gendered spaces of the NTE and propose a disaggregated conceptualization of agency to understand responses to sexual violence, thereby offering useful insights for challenging sexual violence in the NTE and in universities.

Keywords: sexual violence, gender-based violence, night-time economy, postfeminism, agency


Davy, Z., & Cordoba, S. (2020). School Cultures and Trans and Gender Diverse Children: Parents’ Perspectives. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 16(4), 349-367. doi:10.1080/1550428X.2019.1647810

In the United Kingdom, trans and gender-diverse children are increasingly visible within the school system. We examined data obtained from 23 parents who are supportive of their trans and gender-diverse children. We draw on the insights of Freire (2000), who suggested that critical education in its widest sense is a basic element of progressive social change. Parents face interpersonal and structural limit-situations (Freire, 2000) while supporting their children in school cultures. But it is often parents teaching educators about trans and gender-diverse children producing changes to how schools are altering their practices in relation to (trans) gender. Nonetheless, many schools are advocating for trans and gender-diverse children in reactive ways, rather than having clear procedures and strategies in place. Parents welcome the dialogical flexibility this allows, but find the situation demanding and time consuming. However, parents have many concerns about bullying and peer pressure, which emphasizes their ability to only partly ensure the protection of their children at school. The importance of parents’ and children’s knowledge derived from their life experiences, and which they bring with them to school cultures is challenging gendered-limit-situations and the perception about who has the right to determine gender in school.


transgender; non-binary;
gender diversity; limit-
situations; critical
school cultures

Davy, Z. (2019, 2nd April) research assemblages and epistemological commitments. Paper presented at Feminist Methodologies Symposium, Loughborough University

A practical recognition that is required of researchers is to be able to choose the best form of methodology for the job at hand. Or for researchers to understand by choosing one methodology over another will inevitable produce different results. I want to draw on Fox and Alldred’s (2014) paper by paraphrasing their understanding of ‘doing and producing research.’ I think their concept of research machines as part of a ‘research-assemblage’ allows us to begin to recognize research as a process of territorialization. Research territorialization is the momentary settling of all the research’s constituent parts – a research assemblage – into a whole that shapes the knowledge produced and in effect wider knowledge production. The knowledge that research produces manifests according to the particular flows of affect produced by any researcher’s methodology and methods, analysis and write-up and the people involved. This materialist analysis of research-as assemblage is pivotal to my more recent understanding of research integrity, and will form the basis for a critical framework for this talk around qualitative and indeed it’s often quoted nemesis quantitative social inquiry and the connections and disjuncture that the neo-materialist approach may have for and on feminist research.

Feminist Methodologies Symposium, 2019

Davy, Z., & Toze, M. (2018). What Is Gender Dysphoria? A Critical Systematic Narrative Review. Transgender Health, 3(1), 159-169. (Open Access)

In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association has changed the diagnosis of gender identity disorder to gender dysphoria (GD). In this critical narrative review we ask: What is gender dysphoria? We report on some of the inconsistencies in the articles that foreground
distress while obfuscating the fact that not all trans and intersex people suffer stress or impaired functioning, and the inappropriate referencing to intersex people in the diagnostic criterion, claims about the GD diagnosis contributing to the depathologization of and reducing stigma surrounding trans people, the conceptualizations of ‘‘gender dysphoric’’ research subjects, and finally we question the etiological approaches using GD as a conceptual framework. We further suggest that there are a number of methodological issues that need to be resolved to be able to claim that the GD diagnosis can be validated. To shed light on these paradoxes and methodological issues in the DSM-5, we report on the content validity of GD by reviewing research articles postdiagnostic
inception. These findings will contribute to the debate about the validity of GD as a diagnosis for the 21st century for those people who need to live a different gender to that assigned at birth.


Davy, Z. (2018). Genderqueer(ing): ‘On this side of the world against which it protests’. Sexualities, 22(1-2), 80-96. doi:10.1177/1363460717740255


Deconstructionism as a method in transgender studies has been useful to
collapse concepts and ideas about (trans) gender and sexuality. In spite of
the usefulness of undoing the gender and sexuality canon, by way of
concentrating on trans gender practices, the resulting deconstructions
often leave us with no place to go. This article develops an analysis of
transsexual and genderqueer people’s bodily aesthetic assemblages,
challenging theorizations that exclusively pit transsexual people as
subjugated and genderqueer people as subversive. Drawing on interview
data from 23 transsexual and genderqueer people, this article argues that
transsexual and genderqueer people, regardless of their desire for
particular bodily aesthetic interventions and gender recognition,
productively flee, elude, flow, leak and disappear from categorizing legal
statutes and healthcare protocols. The article concludes by arguing that
deconstructive work becomes divisive and unproductive for theorizing and
understanding the bodily aesthetics and diverse connectivities and
affectivities of transsexual and genderqueer people, all of whom become
territorialized, deterritorialized and reterritorialized through polyvocal
bodily aesthetic assemblages.


Jordan, A., Sundari, A., Jameson, J. and Davy, Z. (2018). Understanding student responses to gender-based violence on campus: negotiation, reinscription and resistance. In: Anitha, S, Lewis, R & Jones, R (Eds.). Gender based violence in university communities: policy, prevention and educational interventions in Britain. Bristol, Policy Press: .

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This chapter presents findings from the ‘Stand Together’ action research project at the University of Lincoln (UOL), one of the first bystander intervention (BI) programmes designed to challenge gender-based violence (GBV) in a UK university. The research accompanying this project investigated student attitudes to GBV and the potential of prevention education. The focus of this chapter is on two sites which emerged in student accounts as key spaces where acts of GBV occur, as well as where sexist and heteronormative gender norms are re-inscribed, negotiated and resisted – social media and the night-time economy (NTE).

Davy, Z., Sørlie, A., & Suess Schwend, A. (2018). Democratising diagnoses? The role of the depathologisation perspective in constructing corporeal trans citizenship. Critical Social Policy, 38(1), 13-34. doi:10.1177/0261018317731716 Zowie Davy De Montfort University, UK Anniken Sørlie University of Oslo, Norway Amets Suess Schwend Andalusian School of Public Health, Granada, Spain

In the scope of the current revision process of the diagnostic manuals Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Other Health Problems (ICD), an international trans depathologisation movement has emerged that demands, among other claims, the removal of a diagnostic classification of gender transition processes as a mental disorder. The call for submissions launched by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and World Health Organization (WHO) seems to provide the opportunity for aparticipation of civil society in the DSM and ICD revision processes. These developments open up a number of questions for us that will be discussed in this article. We conducted a meta-narrative review to explore the trans depathologisation movement’s contribution to the DSM and ICD revision process, uncover evidence of a ‘democratised turn’ in the process and review depathologisation proposals implemented in trans healthcare practices, human rights frameworks and legal gender recognition processes. We argue that the trans depathologisation movement has had little impact on medical practices in trans healthcare. However, there is some movement in local health services towards an informed consent model for limited healthcare interventions. Within some European and South/Central American legal frameworks, the depathologisation movement’s demands to free legal gender recognition from medical interventions and examinations have, in different degrees, been incorporated into legal recommendations and enacted in some recent gender recognition laws.


School Cultures: Trans and Gender Diverse Children Parents’ Perspectives. School of Health Sciences, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil.



Children’s transgender issues have emerged from the periphery of general consciousness to center stage within human rights discourses, and as a controversial medical topic. Moreover, gender diverse children, known sometimes as trans (gender), are increasingly visible within the school system in the UK. Most of the small amount of research on gender diverse children in schools has been conducted in the United States (US) in which they often concluded that social service professionals, teachers, and administrators of schools are often uncomfortable with them. Additionally, many school service providers fail to create a safe and respectful atmosphere for gender diverse youth. This study I am presenting here sets out to look at this topic from a different angle and to explore the educational environments that families are experiencing in the UK with their gender diverse children. The study was created to understand parents’ and guardians’ views on the schooling system and the challenges they face in relation to being parents and guardians of gender diverse children.

Many parents who favor the gender affirmative approach will support their child’s social transition. A social transition consists of a change in social role to their affirmed gender or to a gender that cannot easily be situated within the binary system, and may include a change of name, clothing, appearance, and gender pronoun in all or most areas of their lives including at school. The safeguarding of the right of children and youth to education in a safe environment, free from violence, bullying, social exclusion or other forms of discriminatory and degrading treatment related to gender identity expressions is unquestionable. Although the UK’s Equality Act 2010 outlines requirements in relation to the provision of education and access to benefits, facilities and services for those people undergoing gender reassignment, this leaves gender diverse children at school in an ambiguous position due to them not being old enough to legally reassign their gender and it puts those children who are exploring their gender identity in a precarious position particularly at school where they spend a great deal of time. Many parents for example have been accused of forcing their children to become gender diverse or even transsexual because of the parenting styles and it is their fault that they are bullied at school. There is a need to identify the best way to support gender diverse children while at school, so as to maximize their future possibilities, health, wellbeing and quality of life.