GenSex Workshop

3rd Feb 2009, 5:00pm - 7:00pm

Edge Hill University

Edge Hill University’s Gender and Sexuality Research Group, GenSex, presents a session entitled ‘Pain is the root of knowledge’ (Simone Weil): Critiquing Contemporary Suffering. Taking place as part of CONNECT Diversity Week the workshop features Mike Hartill on ‘Sexual Offending Against Children: Theory & Critique’ and Dr Mari Hughes-Edwards on ‘Space and Suffering in the work of Carol Ann Duffy’.

‘Sexual Offending Against Children: Theory & Critique’

By Mike Hartill, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Sport, Edge Hill University.

Mike Hartill lectures in the Department of Sport and Physical Activity at Edge Hill. He is conducting doctoral research on the issue of childhood sexual abuse in sport, with a particular focus on the abuse of boys. He has published peer-reviewed articles on this topic, as well as publishing collaborative research on child protection policy in Rugby League. He has recently contributed to a UNICEF publication on violence against children in sport (with Phil Prescott, SPS) due in 2009. He also sits on the Sport England/NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit’s Task Force Research Committee.


In 1981 the sociologist and sex researcher Ken Plummer wrote ‘paedophilia cannot, in sociological terms, be seen as inherently deviant’ (1981: 236). Such challenging views have largely been forgotten as psychiatric and psychology-based approaches, that begin their analysis from the deviant individual, have come to dominate discourse around adult-child sexual activity. However, Cowburn and Dominelli (2001: 402) illustrate the feminist and sociological critique of such approaches which ‘minimize sexual violence by individualizing and pathologizing this kind of behaviour, thereby diverting attention from addressing its underlying social causes and links to hegemonic masculinity.’ This paper will particularly address Anne Cossins’ (2000) influential sociological account of child sexual abuse. I will argue that this theory, whilst accounting for gender, continues to pathologize the adult (male) who seeks sexual activity with children, and that this seriously limits its capacity to produce a satisfactory account of such activity. I will conclude with some brief suggestions for future theoretical development. 

‘Space and Suffering in the work of Carol Ann Duffy’

By Dr Mari Hughes-Edwards, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, Edge Hill Univeristy.

Mari Hughes-Edwards is currently Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Edge Hill University, having taught at the universities of York, Manchester, Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores, and, most recently, at the University of Salford, where she lectured in Contemporary British Poetry. The main focus of her academic work is on gender and sexuality, and she is the Chair of GenSex, Edge Hill’s Gender and Sexuality Research Group. Originally a medievalist by training, her work now focuses equally on contemporary British Literature, and she publishes particularly on Carol Ann Duffy and Lee Harwood. Her forthcoming books include a study of medieval anchoritic ideology from c.1080 to c.1500 for the University of Wales Press, and she is currently working on the first monograph on suffering, sexuality and the poetic works of Carol Ann Duffy which contextualises her work within contemporary representations of the body, beauty and brutality in western culture.


This paper argues that the contemporary British poet Carol Ann Duffy uses her representation of urban domestic space to connects imagery of the heart, hearth and home, sometimes offering the reader the comfort of the house as refuge, but more frequently affording glimpses into far less comfortable fictional worlds; the worlds of the inhabitants of the houses of the strange, the lost and the beautiful. It evaluates Duffy’s constructions of the home as a metaphor for the relationships which are played out within it. It demonstrates that the health of the home and the health of the heart are cast in Duffy’s work in a mutually-referential relationship. In this context this paper argues that understanding the intersections between suffering and space in Duffy’s poetry is fundamental to an understanding of her work as a whole.

Further Information

For further information on this GenSex workshop, email

Would you like to give a paper to GenSex or lead us in a workshop or seminar? Interdisciplinary research-based presentations are always welcome. Topics can include masculinities, feminisms, gender theories, queer studies, sexuality and subversion, bodily narratives and transgendered identities. For more details, just contact