Sexuality & Reproduction

Research on reproduction, sexualities and health at the Open University is underpinned by a critical health studies approach in which we consider reproduction and sexuality not solely in terms of health but also in terms of intimacy and identity as well as the social, political and governmental possibilities afforded by reproductive and sexual health policies and professional practice. Our research is organised under 5 substantive topic areas: reproductive control, HIV/AIDS, sexuality & disability, the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people and pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. We therefore maintain fruitful research dialogues with other special interest groups based at the School such as Disability and Long Term Conditions, Ageing and Later Life and Death, Dying and Bereavement. We are also active within university wide research themes such as the Private Lives, Public Intimacies stream of the Open University Citizenship and Governance Strategic Research Area.

Key members of the group include Dr Lesley Hoggart who has carried out extensive research in the area of reproductive control. Her most recent work has examined post abortion sexual and contraceptive behaviour among young women and abortion stigma. Dr Sarah Earle specialises in reproductive decision making for women with intellectual disabilities and long-term conditions. Dr Rebecca Jones’s research focuses on sexuality in later life and she has recently completed research on ageing and bisexuality. Finally the group is headed by Dr Peter Keogh who specialises in research on social aspects of HIV/AIDS. Most recently, Peter has been exploring, processes of biomedicalisation of HIV in relation antiretroviral treatments and pharmaceutical HIV prevention technologies.

Our lively post-graduate student group includes PhD students undertaking research into sexuality and disability, gay and bisexual men, intimacy and HIV as well as childbirth and fertility. We also host the Open University Sexuality Alliance which is a cross-disciplinary body working in the policy arena to promote the sexual health of young people life-Limiting and or life-Threatening conditions. We run regular events and symposia on a range of topics related to sexuality and reproduction.

At present, we are focusing on maximising the impact of our recently completed research, notably work on abortion stigma, sexuality and life-limiting conditions and HIV risk and intimacy among gay and bisexual men. Our future direction, as indicated by our current research proposals is likely to comprise critical scholarship on sexual health policies and professional practices. At present we are developing research on the role of public health and health promotion practice on emerging forms of citizenship and governance for LGBT+ populations in the UK and on processes of biomedicalisation in relation to the evolving HIV epidemic in the UK and internationally. However, despite this critical edge, our work will remain applied, especially in relation to reproductive control and the work of the Sexuality Alliance which continues to focus on sexuality issues for young people with life-Limiting and or life-Threatening conditions.

Project Lead

Peter KeoghDr Peter Keogh is head of the Reproduction, Sexualities and Health Special Interest Group at the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies. His background is in social research in the areas of HIV, intimacy and sexual risk. For many years, Peter was the qualitative research lead for Sigma Research and more recently, he spent three years as a Qualitative Research Director at NatCen Social Research Peter is also Honorary Senior Lecturer at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Peter is interested in how people with HIV and those at risk for HIV manage their sexual, intimate and social lives as the epidemic unfolds. In particular, he is interested in looking at the ways in which biomedical and governmental processes interact with sexual and intimate lives and with questions of identity, citizenship and community/collectivity. Most recently, Peter has been exploring, with others, processes of biomedicalisation of HIV – a period which commenced with the introduction of highly effective antiretroviral treatments in 1996 and recently led to the introduction of pharmaceutical HIV prevention technologies.

Peter has been researching this area for over 20 years and has completed many studies on sexual and intimate contexts for men who have sex with men and for people living with HIV. He is currently engaged on two research projects. The first, funded by the Wellcome Trust involves the preparation of a substantial body of UK qualitative datasets for secondary analysis and a pilot amplified analysis to explore changes to lived experience of people with or at risk for HIV over time. The second is a qualitative study of the sexual risk practices and intimate/social lives of 25 men who have sex with men in the light of Treatment as Prevention and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxes.

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