Francis Riendeau for Les 3 sex*

Article • Critical Sexology

4 May 2020

The text below is from the Avant-garde magazine from Les 3 sex* published in print format in April 2019, and then digitally in May 2019. For more information on the magazine, or to get a copy, click here.


☛ Cette chronique est aussi disponible en français [➦].

Translated by Audrey Morabito


Is it a movement, an ideology, a practical perspective or yet another theory linked to human sexuality?

Originating from the United Kingdom, Critical Sexology is first described as a series of interdisciplinary seminars for academics and activists interested in the concepts of gender and sexuality in medical and social discourses. It is addressed to people working in the fields of psychology, psychoanalysis, sociology, philosophy, literature, arts, medicine, law, and history who wish to have a critical approach to gender constructs and sexuality in a safe space (Barker et al., 2009; Critical Sexology, 2018). 

Since the first Critical Sexology seminar in 2002, several subjects surrounding human sexuality have been discussed and analyzed, such as pornography, concepts of femininity and masculinity, sexual agency, mental health and even disclosure of one's sexuality as a professional (Critical Sexology, 2018). Throughout the seminars, these notions and their influences are debated. Why? Because sexuality and sexology are not completely independent of the social and political context in which they operate: societies, concepts and individuals are constantly changing and evolving. 

Critical Sexology in Quebec? 

The only department of sexology in North America is located at the Université du Québec à Montréal. In December of 2018, they hosted a seminar on integrative approaches and the politicization of clinical sexology practice. Among the objectives of the event was the desire to confront classical clinical theories in sexology, practical experience, and the conceptualization of recent theories. This event demonstrates the willingness of the sexology department to opt for more critical and nuanced sexology, an initiative that will update the current practices in sexology (UQAM, 2018).

While critical and political analyses in sexology pay little attention to clinical approaches and are generally associated with academic and community circles, this recent seminar is one of the first to openly propose the inclusion of clinical professionals. The will behind this initiative can easily be associated with the Critical Sexology movement, which aims to reunite researchers and professionals in the analyses of socio-political issues.

With regard to other Quebec universities, The Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at McGill University indicates that it adopts an interdisciplinary and critical approach within their Gender, Sexuality, Feminist and Social Justice Studies (GSFS) program (McGill University, 2019). In addition, Bishop University is following the same footsteps with its Gender, Diversity and Equity Studies program, which aims to criticize the social influences that dictate the lives of individuals (Studyportals, 2019). 

The existence of such programs can be perceived as a demonstration of the real interest in the issues raised by movements such as Critical Sexology. Recently, sexology has redefined itself largely by reforming its bachelor’s program at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). It seems to be more sensitive to socio-political issues linked to human sexuality. Nonetheless, the clinical sexology master’s program at UQAM, for its part, has yet to be reformed. 

Is Critical Sexology Ahead of its Time? Absolutely. 

Through its will to include Queer theories in the practice of sexology;

through its critical approach of various concepts linked to human sexuality;

but mainly through its interdisciplinary vision which mobilizes and nourishes the reflexivity of professionals working in sexology. 


Depending on the angle adopted, it could be possible to define Critical Sexology as a movement, an ideology, a practical perspective, or even a theory. Aside from the fact that this term defines practical seminars, it can also represent a way of thinking or an ideal to be achieved, for more representative and diverse sexology. 

The Critical Sexology seminars were first established by Iain Morland and Dr. Lih-Mei Liao. Iain Morland is a technology consultant, programmer and writer who has written extensively on sexuality, gender, as well as ethics in the medical and scientific fields (Morland, 2019). Dr. Lih-Mei Liao, for her part, is a psychologist who specializes in pediatric gynecology, maternity and perinatal mental health. She works actively with individuals who have genetic conditions that may affect sexual and reproductive development (University College London Hospital, 2016). 

In 2006, the coordination of the seminars was taken over by Lisa Downing and Dr. Meg-John Barker. Lisa Downing is a professor in the Department of Modern Languages in London, United Kingdom, where she mainly studies the intersections between critical theory, gender and sexuality studies and cultural studies (University of Birmingham, 2019). Dr. Meg-John Barker is an experienced speaker, author, consultant and activist who is particularly interested in sexuality, gender and relationships (The Open University, 2019). 

Critical Sexology events are now organized by Dr. Stephanie Davis, who is interested in the intersections between ethno-racial identity, gender, sexuality as well as critical community psychology (University of East London, 2019) and Dr. Elliot Evans, who studies Queer, Transgender and Feminist theories (University of East London, 2019), as well as Dr. Jos Twist, who is interested in sexual, relational and gender diversity (Gender Identity Development Service, 2019).  

To Read/Comment/Critisize

To cite this article:

Plourde, P. (2020, May 4). Critical sexology. Les 3 sex*  

critical sexology, interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, gender, influences, social, political, change, Quebec, theory, community, university, clinical practice


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