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Thursday, 12 May 2022, 6:00PM - 7:00PM
Barnard's Inn Hall

Abstinence

Professor Joanna Bourke FBA

Abstinence from sex is a requirement for many people seeking a spiritual life. In the U.S., abstinence-only education has been officially endorsed since 1981, despite the fact that America has the highest level of teen-pregnancies in the industrialized world. In more recent years, self-proclaimed 'Asexuals' have insisted that they have a distinct sexual identity. They have become targets of hate speech. 

What do these contrasting ways of thinking about abstinence tell us about modern sexual anxieties?


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Joanna is Gresham Professor of Rhetoric. 

She is a well-known social and cultural historian. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and outgoing Chair of its Modern History Section. She is the prizewinning author of 14 books, including histories on modern warfare, medicine and science, psychology and psychiatry, the emotions, pain, what it means to be human, and sexual violence. Her books have been translated into many languages. Her book An Intimate History of Killing won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize. She is a prolific public speaker and is College Orator at Birkbeck, as well as a frequent and award-winning contributor to TV and radio programmes. She was a Visiting Professor of History at Gresham College from 2017-19.

Professor Joanna Bourke said: “I am very excited to become Gresham Professor of Rhetoric because Gresham College’s four centuries of service to London, the UK, and the international community are an inspiration.  Like all professors at Gresham College, I strongly believe in the power of education to improve our world. People who attend lectures at Gresham College (or watch them online) are intellectually engaged thinkers: as the next Gresham Professor of Rhetoric, I am thrilled to be able to continue discussing topics of interest with them. 

“I chose the theme of my first series of lectures – the body – for its considerable contemporary importance. In my series, I hope to reveal the historically varied ways that people have understood bodies. These variations are often surprising; always intriguing. The changing medical, scientific, moral, economic, and political meanings given to the material body have radical implications for human culture. Understanding these meanings change tell us a great deal about what it means to be human."

Professor Bourke's lecture series are as follows:

2021/22 Sex: A Modern History

2020/21 Evil Women

2019/20 Exploring the Body

2018/19 Understanding Human Violence cont.

2017/18 Understanding Human Violence

All lectures by the Gresham Professors of Rhetoric can be accessed here.

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