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Sex

Wheel of Fortune painting

Our collections offer a glimpse into sex and LGBT communities.

Until 1967 almost all sexual activity between men was a civil offence in the UK, punishable by death, imprisonment or chemical castration.  Despite being illegal, sexual activity between men certainly took place. Sexual activity between women has never been illegal in the UK. In 1921, legislation to make lesbian acts illegal was defeated in Parliament for fear it would draw attention to such acts and open them up to a new ‘audience’.

As legal sexual equality began to be achieved from 1967, taboos about same-sex sexual activity meant that often it was still not as openly discussed or accepted as that between those of different sexes.

Legal sexual equality was achieved in the UK in 2001 when the age of consent was equalised to 16. Previously the age of consent had been higher for people of the same gender than for people of opposite genders.

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LGBT collections

Explore our LGBT collections researched by our Pride and Prejudice research project