Keeping them in their Place: Hetero/sexist Harassment, Gender and the Enforcement of Heterosexuality

  • Debbie Epstein
Part of the Explorations in Sociology book series (EIS)


Since September 1991 I have been engaged in a research project in which we set out to explore the experiences of lesbian and gay students, teachers, and parents in relation to the English system of education.2 In the course of the project, we have interviewed or held group discussions with some 30 lesbians and gay men, as well as carrying out ethnographic work in four schools and in a lesbian and gay youth group.3 While the majority of our respondents have been white, we have also spoken with lesbians and gays of African and of South Asian descent.4 My own contribution to the field work for this project has been that of interviewing many of our lesbian and gay respondents and participant observation in one of the schools. Doing the research, I have been struck forcibly by the various forms of harassment experienced by our female respondents as well as by those men and boys who identified as and/or were perceived as gay or effeminate by their peers and/or teachers. During the same period, and partly because of the research findings, I have found myself reflecting on my own experiences of harassment and those of my students in both the recent and more distant past. This chapter is, in large part, the result of these reflections and of discussions I have had with students, colleagues, and friends about the issues involved.5


Black Woman Sexual Harassment Disable People Disable Woman Potential Sexual Partner 
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© British Sociological Association 1996

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  • Debbie Epstein

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