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date: 30 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

‘Sexuality’ is a fluid concept that has varied significantly across time and place. It is an aspect of social identity that means many different things to different people. The criminality of so-called deviant sexual behaviour is also socially constructed. The result is dissonance between the modern democratic notions of freedom of expression and current social sensibilities. This essay summarizes views toward acceptable sexual conduct throughout the Anglophone West, focusing on changes in British social attitudes and laws. It discusses the association of sex and sin that lay at the foundations of Western sexual morality. It follows the transformation of this connection through the secularization process associated with modernity and demonstrates the role of medical knowledge and practice in this regard. Changes to legislation over time will be used as evidence of shifting social attitudes, such as laws regarding the sexualized child, homosexual relationships, and rape within marriage.

Keywords: identity, law, morality, social attitudes, sexuality, sexual behaviour

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