Second-Wave Feminist Approaches to Sexuality in Britain and France, c.1970-c.1983

  • Anna Gurun

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis compares the campaigns and debates on sexuality by the British ‘Women’s Liberation Movement’ (WLM) and the French ‘Mouvement de libération des femmes’ (MLF), in the period c.1970 – c.1983. It examines five significant topics: abortion, lesbianism, pornography, prostitution, and rape, all of which were campaigned on by feminists in each country. There has been a distinct lack of historical comparative works on the two movements, and few attempts to compare their discussions and activism on sexuality, which has resulted in a limited view of each movement, something this thesis aims to rectify. Using written grassroots sources, published primary material, and oral history interviews, it argues there were broad similarities between the two movements, but differences in the scope, shape, and progression of their campaigns as a result of national, cultural, and social factors.

    This study covers the period when each movement was at its height but also when it began to wane in activism, and explores how each approached sexuality in public campaigns and discussions. Examining multiple topics allows a deeper comparison of the feminist approach to sexuality, including: how they dealt with outside organisations; the significance of personal experience; and connections between class, sexuality, and the limits of ‘sexual liberation’. By providing the first historical comparative analysis of the movements’ approaches, this project shows there were many parallel ideas between the two as result of similar origins and outside influences. Yet it was national events and contexts that converted these ideas on politicising the personal into distinctive feminist activism, and a ‘global sisterhood’ manifested differently on each side of the Channel.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPerry Willson (Supervisor), Anja Johansen (Supervisor), Callum Brown (Supervisor), Maud Bracke (Supervisor) & Anna Bellavitis (Supervisor)


    • Sexuality
    • Women's Liberation Movement

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