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Youth Sexuality, Responsibility, and the Opening of the Brook Advisory Centres in London and Birmingham in the 1960s

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Rusterholz, Caroline  ORCID logo


jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pThis article takes the opening of the Brook Advisory Centres in London (1964) and Birmingham (1966) as a comparative case study for exploring the public debate on youth sexuality. The two centers were the first in postwar Britain specifically dedicated to the provision of advice on birth control and emotional problems to unmarried and young people. By focusing on an initiative that launched amid rising concerns over illegitimacy and promiscuity, the article engages with the debate over social change in the 1960s and the so-called permissive society. The author argues that the notion of responsibility became a key paradigm for supporters of a new sexual culture. Combining archival material, media analysis, and oral history interviews, the author shows that in constructing the need for a service for unmarried people, the Brook Advisory Centres faced accusations of encouraging promiscuity. Their main line of defense was the production of a narrative that stressed the notion of responsibility and moral guidance for unmarried people in avoiding unwanted babies. And in the debate around youth sexuality, locality mattered. In Birmingham, the prospect of formal contraceptive advice for unmarried girls was violently opposed by church members and family-planning doctors, whereas London witnessed the creation of a viable discourse with an emphasis on sexual responsibility.</jats:p>



43 History, Heritage and Archaeology, 47 Language, Communication and Culture, 4303 Historical Studies, 4705 Literary Studies, 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

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Journal of British Studies

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Cambridge University Press (CUP)


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Wellcome Trust (209726/Z/17/Z)