Dr Jane O’Neill

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr Jane O’Neill


Postdoctoral Fellow, January - April 2021

project: Constructions of consent: gender roles in sex education since the 1960s

I am a social historian with research interests in 20th century youth, gender, and sexual behaviour.  My ESRC-funded PhD explored issues of youth, sexuality and courtship, using a range of sources including personal testimonies to consider the formation of young people’s sexual ideas and changing conceptualisations of social and sexual respectability in Scotland, between 1945 and 1980. Since completing this in 2016, I have worked on the AHRC-funded project 'The Abortion Act (1967): A Biography', https://research.kent.ac.uk/abortion-act/ a collaboration between History and Law which traces the Act’s changing interpretation and impact in each of the countries of the UK from 1967 to the present.

My project with IASH will analyse the ways in which ideas about consent in sexual relationships have been constructed in sex education materials in Britain from the 1960s onwards, and consider how these have been received, adapted and challenged by young people. This will highlight developments in portrayals of gender roles, responsibility and agency, evaluating the gendered discussion of sexual urges and sexual pleasure, the consequences of sex and ‘losing virginity’, and any discussion of sexual pressure and coercion, noting how far this has changed over time from the period of ‘sexual revolution’ onwards.

Select recent publications:

Jane O'Neill, '"Education not fornication"? Sexual morality among students in Scotland, c. 1955-75', in J. Burkett (ed.) Students in Twentieth Century Britain and Ireland (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp.77-98.

Jane O'Neill, '"Abortion Games": the negotiation of termination decisions in post-1967 Britain', History 104 (2019), pp.169-188. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-229X.12729