I recently attended the 10th International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society Conference at Dublin City University. The International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society (IASSCS) was founded in 1997 in Amsterdam with the aim of developing a broad range of multi-disciplinary researchers in the field of sexuality. In the eighteen years since IASSCS inception nine successful conferences have been held around the world. The most recent conference hosted by DCU was the 10th IASSCS event to occur, held over four days in June 2015 (17th-20th). The title of the conference was Literacies and Sexualities in Cultural. Fictional, Real and Virtual Worlds: Past, Present, Future Perfect?
The afternoon of second confrence day (18th June) was when our symposium, Cultures of Experimentation in Social Psychology: Re-interpretation and re-invention. was scheduled. The aims of which were to introduce sexuality researchers and activists from other disciplines to social psychology experimentation through contemporary work, to present evidence of heteronormativity in contemporary Europe, and to examine differences in the impact of heteronormativity on sexual minorities by gender in research cultures and research results. The key themes were social psychology, scientific cultures, languages and discourse, equality, stereotyping, lesbian erasure, prejudice, affirmative research and experimentation. The symposium presented the work of four early career researchers in psychology who examined a variety of topics on the broad spectrum of sexuality research. The first paper by Katherine Hubbard (University of Surrey) re-examined the ground breaking research of Evelyn Hooker. My paper on the heteronormative construction of caregiving and the impact of this on lesbian caregivers came next, followed by new research on stereotyping by voice from Fabio Fasoli (University of Lisbon). The final paper was from Sapphira Thorne (University of Surrey) who examined the heteronormative construction of romantic love.
After everyone had presented our discussant, Professor Peter Hegarty (University of Surrey), highlighted the common themes from our broad, but sexuality related, topics. Peter highlighted how, despite the very different areas of psychology we examined (lifespan development, psycholinguistics, cognition and categorisation) all four papers were committed to the empirical project engaging critically with issues of heterosexism, heteronormativity, invisibility, erasure, and stereotyping in relation to sexual minority lives. Indeed, the papers made clear that within the permeable boundaries of social psychology there is space in which to explore claims about discourse and reality in relation to lesbian and gay lives via a re-examination of the past (Hubbard), a case study of caring (Parslow-Breen), stereotyping (Fasoli), and implicit cognition about love and marriage (Thorne). Overall the gendered nature of heterosexism was put into sharp relief as the papers made clear that lesbians and gay men experience visibility in different ways, with gay men being perceived as much more visible than lesbians, who generally find their experiences erased both with and without the academy.
Following Peter’s synthesis of the symposium themes the panel were open to questions. Each paper appeared well received and each presenter received pertinent and insightful questions from the floor.
Generally the conference had a great atmosphere and provided an encouraging and receptive environment for both experienced and early career researchers alike. I am already thinking ahead to 2017 and the 11th IASSCS!
Finally, a big thanks must go to BP Psychology of Sexualities Section for their bursary support which helped make our symposium a success and allowed us to showcase contemporary British and European sexualities psychological research to an international audience.