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 Professor 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. Dr Peter Keogh 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. Finally, the group is lead by Dr Victoria Newton who specialises in women’s experiences of contraception and reproductive control. Victoria’s most recent work explores vernacular knowledge and contraceptive decision-making. Victoria holds an honorary fellowship at Public Health England.

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

Professional Biography

Dr Victoria Newton is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at the Open University. Victoria’s research focuses on reproductive health – contraception, menstruation, abortion, and fertility. Victoria coordinates the Reproduction, Sexualities & Sexual Health Research Group within the School of Health Wellbeing and Social Care. She specialises in qualitative research, with a focus on sensitive subjects, and has worked in reproductive health since undertaking her PhD at the University of Sheffield. Her PhD was funded by the AHRC and explored ‘folklore’ and everyday knowledge and belief about menstruation.

 

Prior to joining the OU in December 2017, Victoria worked at Queen Mary University of London as a Lecturer in Applied Health Research for NIHR CLAHRC North Thames. She also held an Honorary Lectureship at UCL. In 2010-2013, Victoria worked as a Research Fellow in Sexual Health at the University of Greenwich, before becoming a Research Associate at the OU (2013-2016).

 

Victoria is currently leading an AHRC Early Career Research Grant: Reproductive Bodylore: The Role of Vernacular Knowledge in Women’s Contraceptive Decision-Making. The project explores vernacular knowledge about contraception and is a collaboration between the OU, The Folklore Society, and Public Health England.

Victoria’s other recent projects include My Body My Life a Travelling Exhibition and website which challenges abortion related stigma and ACCESS Approaches in Complex and Challenging Environments for Sustainable Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

 

Victoria’s most recent publications include:

 

Monograph:

Newton, V.L. (2016) Everyday Discourses of Menstruation Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

Peer-reviewed articles:

Newton, V.L., Dickson, J. and Hoggart, L. (2020) Young women’s fertility knowledge: Problems with partial knowledge. BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, 46: pp. 147-151.

 

Hoggart, L., Walker, S., Newton, V.L. and Parker, M. (2018) Practitioner-based barriers to the universal provision of Intrauterine Contraception in General Practice. BMJ Sexual and

Reproductive Health Published Online First: 06 March 2018. doi: 10.1136/bmjsrh-2017-101805

 

Walker, S., Newton, V.L., Hoggart, L and Parker, M. (2018) ‘I think maybe 10 years seems a bit long’: beliefs and attitudes of women who had never used IUD. BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health Published Online First: 22 January 2018. doi: 10.1136/bmjsrh-2017-101798

 

Newton, V.L. (2017) It’s good to be able to talk: An exploration of participant and researcher roles when conducting ‘sensitive’ research. Women’s Studies International Forum, Special Issue: ‘Rapport and Collusion: tracing common threads in research’, March – April 2017, 93-99.

Hoggart, L., Newton, V.L. and Bury, L. (2017) ‘Repeat Abortion’, a phrase to be avoided? Qualitative insights into labelling and stigma. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare, 43:1, 26-30.

 

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If you are interested in being part of the Sexuality & Reproduction SIG please email healthwellbeing@open.ac.uk where further details will be provided.