The Lesbian Revolution: Lesbian Feminism in the UK 1970-1990, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Lesbian Revolution

Lesbian Feminism in the UK 1970-1990, 1st Edition

By Sheila Jeffreys


220 pages

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Paperback: 9781138096578
pub: 2018-08-15
Hardback: 9781138096561
pub: 2018-08-21
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315105253
pub: 2018-09-03
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The Lesbian Revolution argues that lesbian feminists were a vital force in the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM). They did not just play a fundamental role in the important changes wrought by second wave feminism, but created a powerful revolution in lesbian theory, culture and practice. Yet this lesbian revolution is undocumented.

The book shows that lesbian feminists were founders of feminist institutions such as resources for women survivors of men’s violence, including refuges and rape crisis centres, and that they were central to campaigns against this violence. They created a feminist squatting movement, theatre groups, bands, art and poetry and conducted campaigns for lesbian rights. They also created a profound and challenging analysis of sexuality which has disappeared from the historical record. They analysed heterosexuality as a political institution, arguing that lesbianism was a political choice for feminists and, indeed, a form of resistance in itself. Using interviews with prominent lesbian feminists from the time of the WLM, and informed by the author's personal experience, this book aims to challenge the way the work and ideas of lesbian feminists have been eclipsed and to document the lesbian revolution.

The book will be of key interest to scholars and students of women’s history, the history of feminism, the politics of sexuality, women’s studies, gender studies, lesbian and gay studies, queer studies and cultural studies, as well as to the lay reader interested in the WLM and feminism more generally.


"A scholarly and invigorating 'insider's' history of lesbian feminism in the UK and a bold, incisive and lucid analysis which captures the zeitgeist of 1970s and 1980s lesbian feminism." - Celia Kitzinger, Author of The Social Construction of Lesbianism

"This is an important book about lesbian feminism from the 1970s through to the 1990s. It is a history that needs to be told, and Sheila Jeffreys, with her characteristic passion, documents the rich culture of lesbian feminism (the literature, music, theatre), as well as the central role of lesbian feminists as activists against violence against women and the heteropatriarchy." - Marianne Hester OBE FAcSS, Professor of Gender, Violence and International Policy at the University of Bristol, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Gender-Based Violence

Table of Contents


1. The Origins of Lesbian Feminism

2. Lesbian Culture

3. The Lesbian Perspective

4. Separatism

5. Political Lesbianism and Heterosexuality

6. Sadomasochism: The Challenge to the Politics of Sexual Equality

7. The Gender Backlash: Butch/Femme Roleplaying

8. Identity Politics and the Destruction of Lesbian Feminism: ‘The CIA couldn’t have done it better’ (Rahila of Southall Black Sisters, 1986).

9. The Demise of Lesbian Feminism


About the Author

Sheila Jeffreys is a Professorial Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia. In 1973, in the United Kingdom, she became involved in the Women’s Liberation Movement and became a lesbian in 1977. She moved to Australia in 1991, where she became a Professor of Feminist Politics at the University of Melbourne and has authored numerous books on the history and politics of sexuality, the global sex industry, lesbian feminism, harmful beauty practices, religion and women’s rights and the politics of transgenderism. She moved back to the UK in 2015.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Radical History and Politics

The series Routledge Studies in Radical History and Politics has two areas of interest. Firstly, this series aims to publish books which focus on the history of movements of the radical left. ‘Movement of the radical left’ is here interpreted in its broadest sense as encompassing those past movements for radical change which operated in the mainstream political arena as with political parties, and past movements for change which operated more outside the mainstream as with millenarian movements, anarchist groups, utopian socialist communities, and trade unions. Secondly, this series aims to publish books which focus on more contemporary expressions of radical left-wing politics. Recent years have been witness to the emergence of a multitude of new radical movements adept at getting their voices in the public sphere. From those participating in the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, community unionism, social media forums, independent media outlets, local voluntary organisations campaigning for progressive change, and so on, it seems to be the case that innovative networks of radicalism are being constructed in civil society that operate in different public forms.  

The series very much welcomes titles with a British focus, but is not limited to any particular national context or region. The series will encourage scholars who contribute to this series to draw on perspectives and insights from other disciplines.

Learn more…

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