Marriage and the Spare Bedroom: Exploring the Sexual Politics of Austerity
AbstractHeteronormativity and homonormativity are connected. Changing social attitudes to homosexuality and the creation of new homonorms influence changing social norms around heterosexuality. To study the emerging sexual politics of austerity it is important to consider how normative social attitudes to both heterosexual and homosexual relations are changing in the current period. This paper examines two recent social policy developments in the UK to this end. It interrogates the debates about 'marriage equality' for same sex couples in conjunction with recent changes to welfare benefits, particularly the 'Bedroom Tax' which penalises social housing tenants receiving housing benefits, if they are deemed to be living in accommodation with more bedrooms than they need. While marriage equality (re)privileges certain types of couples and domestic economies, simultaneous attacks on the welfare system are disproportionately affecting single people and those couples who find their relationships outside the reconfigured normative values of austerity Britain. The paper concludes by considering what these changes reveal about the sexual politics of austerity and the role of mainstream lesbian and gay advocacy groups in shaping them.
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