Responsible pleasure the Brook Advisory Centres and youth sexuality in postwar Britain


The period between the 1960s and the 1990s has traditionally been associated with sexual liberation and a growing sense of permissiveness in Britain, during which cultural and social norms of young people's sexuality went through a dramatic shift. Using the Brook Advisory Centre (Brook) as a case study, Responsible Pleasure examines how and why this occurred, providing a socio-cultural history of youth sexuality in Britain over these three decades. It focuses on Brook as a pioneering sexual health charity operating on the cusp of voluntary and state-financed sectors. From the opening of its first centre in London, followed by other centres including Birmingham (1966), Bristol (1968), and Edinburgh (1968), to the present day, Brook has been a major provider of contraceptive advice and sexual counselling to unmarried people and teenagers. It pioneered an initiative that would form the primary model for the provision of advice on contraception for teenagers in Britain and remains a key player in sexual health services today. Although Brook has provoked fierce opposition and triggered recurrent public debates on teenage sexuality, little is known of its history. As a non-governmental organization with deep connections to the Family Planning Association (FPA) and the National Health Service (NHS), Brook offers a fascinating case study for exploring the relationship between changing sexual cultures, sexual politics, and young people's sexual experiences, intimacy, and subjectivities. Drawing on a wide range of archived and published materials, as well as oral history interviews conducted by the author, this book provides a substantial and original contribution to scholarship on the forging of the modern sexual subject.