New labour, new Britain, new sexual values?

Social Epistemology 15 (2):113 – 126 (2001)
This article investigates changing parameters of 'privacy' in Britain and their relevance for the redrawing of boundaries between 'acceptable' and 'unacceptable' sexualities. Drawing on Berlant's distinction between 'live' sex acts and 'dead identities', the article suggests that some hitherto 'live' sex act may 'die', leaving others to be rejected and policed, perhaps even with renewed vigour. This may not, however, mean that the normative status of conjugal (hetero)sexuality is moribund: it may merely be reinvented. The article focuses primarily on the heated and often sensationalized public debate on the homosexuality of Members of Parliament which gripped the UK during October and November 1998. Tony Blair's Labour government was elected to power in 1997 under the campaign slogan 'New Labour, New Britain', and the public reaction to the homosexuality of MPs in 1998 led many commentators to conclude that British sexual values were undergoing a profound liberalization. It is questionable, however, whether these 'new' sexual values were actually as new, or as liberal, as they appeared.
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