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The following images and text are taken from Diary of a Conference on Sexuality, the program designed by Hannah Alderfer, Beth Jaker, and Marybeth Nelson and published in conjunction with the ninth "Scholar and the Feminist" conference, "Towards a Politics of Sexuality," held at Barnard College on April 24, 1982. Better known as the Barnard Sex Conference, the conference was a key event in the feminist sex wars of the 1980s. Organized by Carole Vance to explore the politics of sexuality, the conference was picketed by antipornography groups. While these protesters focused their objections on issues of pornography, S/M, and butch/femme, the conference addressed a much wider array of questions about women's experiences of sexuality, some of which are represented here.

No ordinary conference program, the Diary included Vance's invitation to presenters, a coauthored "Concept Paper" that described the conference's aims and guiding questions, a list of speakers and schedule of events, as well as minutes from planning meetings, bibliographies of suggested reading, and a page devoted to each workshop. The Diary was, as Gayle Rubin writes in her article in this volume, "intended to be something of an archival document." Each speaker created a page in the Diary to represent her workshop; many of these included a "postcard" featuring some image that she found meaningful personally or in the context of the workshop. These images added to the visual impact of the program, which was designed by Alderfer, Jaker, and Nelson. With its striking images, its combination of politics, scholarship, and personal reflection, and its moments of insight, polemic, and humor, the Diary remains a compelling record of feminist collaboration.

In the days leading up to the conference, members of antipornography groups contacted the Barnard administration and issued a warning about what [End Page 49] they saw as the "antifeminist" nature of the proceedings. In response, Barnard administrators confiscated 1,500 copies of the Diary two days before the conference. (For a full account of these events, see Rubin's essay in this volume and Vance's epilogue in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality [1984], the collection that emerged out of the Barnard conference.) Despite subsequent reprinting, the Diary remains exceedingly rare. (A complete online version of the Diary will be available soon at diaryofaconference.com.) In this GLQ Archive, we have reproduced the cover of the Diary, Vance's invitation to participants, the table of contents, meeting minutes, the "Concept Paper," pages for several of the workshops, and personals from conference participants.

For the cover of this special issue, the artist and scholar Aristea Fotopoulou was commissioned to recreate a photograph from the Diary. The original image, which accompanied Vance's Concept Paper, shows a naked woman lying suspended between two beds (see page 62 in this issue). While Fotopoulou's visual homage captures the sensuality as well as the vulnerability of the original, the slight variations of bodily morphology and mise-en-scène between the two images snag the attention, shuttling the viewer between different feminist temporalities and their various articulations of pleasure and danger. [End Page 50]

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  • Diary of a Conference on Sexuality
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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9375
Print ISSN
1064-2684
Pages
pp. 49-51
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-12
Open Access
No
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