9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN23 Sexuality

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Sexuality, Abuse and Violence Building I, 1E10

An Age-Old Story. Lesbian Domestic Violence, Age and Cohort Effects

To date there has been very little research in the area of lesbian domestic violence. There has long been need for a paradigmatic shift in sociological studies. Research into lesbianism has traditionally existed within a different academic framework, reflecting a preoccupation with sexuality and identity, hence where domestic violence is mentioned lesbians are largely absent; where lesbians are mentioned domestic violence is absent. In particular, age has been largely overlooked in research relating to lesbians, and particularly in relation to lesbian domestic violence. In part, this is perhaps due to the fact that older lesbians are a particularly hard to reach population. It may also be because the lack of recognition of age stems from a focus on sexuality as key determining factor of lesbian and gay experience. This paper is based on the findings of my ESRC-funded PhD research, conducted at Newcastle University, during which I interviewed 25 self-identified lesbians about changing community responses to the topic. In part, I wanted to examine lesbian domestic violence in terms of whether it was perceived to be a new social story, or an old one, which for various reasons is only just beginning to be told. What has changed to facilitate the telling, and hearing, of these stories, and who is doing the talking? I reflect on the ways in which time (cohort effects) and age may have impacted on the women's responses to, and understandings of, lesbian domestic violence. For example, because older lesbians may be viewed as asexual and vulnerable, it may be that older victims of lesbian domestic violence are conceptualised as victims of elder abuse, and the violent older woman might be rendered invisible. If the ageing body is generally a problem in contemporary youth-orientated lesbian communities, it could be more difficult for older victims of lesbian domestic violence to be heard and to find support.