1st Edition

The Lesbian Revolution Lesbian Feminism in the UK 1970-1990

By Sheila Jeffreys Copyright 2018
    234 Pages
    by Routledge

    234 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.


    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



    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.

    "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