Accessibility navigation

'Mummy … what is a Sex Pistol?': SEX, sex and British punk in the 1970s

Worley, M. ORCID: (2023) 'Mummy … what is a Sex Pistol?': SEX, sex and British punk in the 1970s. In: Let’s Spend the Night Together: Sex, Pop Music and British Youth Culture, 1950s–80s. Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp. 238-257. ISBN 9781526159984

[img] Text - Accepted Version
· Restricted to Repository staff only until 30 April 2025.


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.


British punk has typically been presented as a response to either the pop cultural or political context of the 1970s. As a reaction to an ageing and increasingly bloated rock form, punk offered a youthful return to basics: short, sharp songs full of energy and volatility. However, British punk also emerged dressed in the clothes produced from Malcolm McLaren’s and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX emporium on the King’s Road in London. The translation of fetishwear into fashion-wear was very much part of punk’s claims to originality. Indeed, the name ‘Sex Pistols’ alluded to a seditious sexuality that served as integral to the band’s unruly provocation. This chapter will examine how sex and sexuality fed into the presentation and performance of early British punk. It will draw from the clothes, records, artworks and interviews of the time, connecting to the theories of Wilhelm Reich that intrigued McLaren and locating sexual ‘deviance’ as a key part of punk’s cultural arsenal. It will explore SEX’s engagement with pornography and the underground world of rubber fetishism, utilising contemporary publications and film to reveal how McLaren and Westwood envisaged punk’s sexual subversion. In so doing, the chapter will contextualise punk within a broader cultural context of artistic challenges to sexual mores, revealing how punk helped redefine – or at least confuse – notions of sex and sexuality in both musical and stylistic terms.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Language Text and Power
ID Code:112092
Publisher:Manchester University Press

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation