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Dr Ben Mechen

Visiting Research Fellow

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I am an historian of culture and society in modern Britain. I joined KCL in 2019 having worked as a teaching fellow at the University of Birmingham and University College London, where I completed my PhD. I am currently working on my first book, Responsible Pleasures: Liberalism and the Sexual Revolution, 1967-85, to be published by University of California Press. The book argues that one of the most significant legacies of the ‘Sexual Revolution’ was the normalisation of an idea of sexual freedom based on consumption, self-realisation, pleasure-seeking and -giving, and contraceptive responsibility. The book therefore argues that the ‘Sexual Revolution’ was a complex and ambivalent process that lastingly changed understandings of selfhood and intimacy, and fundamentally redrew the relationship between the private sexual subject and the state, the market and the ‘expert’. In 2018-19, I was also a member of the Wellcome Trust project Pharmacosexuality: The Past, Present and Future of Sex on Drugs, based at Royal Holloway. The project used archival and ethnographic methods to investigate the use of psychoactive substances as technologies of sexual therapy, desire and identity between the 1880s and the present.

Research interests and PhD supervision

Gender and sexuality in modern Britain · Liberalism, law, the individual and the state · Radical forms of community, land-use and home-occupation in postwar Britain · Precarious work in the contemporary university In addition to Responsible Pleasures, other current or recently completed projects include a co-edited volume on masculinities in modern Britain with Matt Houlbrook and Katie Jones, journal special issues on “sexpertise” and the cultural politics of sex since 1945, and an article on transnational terrorism and the legal ‘state of exception’ in 1970s Britain. I am now developing a new project on radical community in the rural and urban peripheries of late twentieth century Britain, focusing to begin with on two case studies: self-building housing initiatives in 1980s London and the “New Age Traveller” movement of the same period.


I teach a number of modules on the history of gender and sexuality in modern Britain. I am also happy to discuss MA dissertation ideas in this area or more broadly in the social and cultural history of nineteenth and twentieth-century Britain.

Selected publications

  • Responsible Pleasures: Liberalism and the Sexual Revolution, 1967-85 (manuscript in progress)
  • ‘Sex, Drugs and Pharmacy’, Pharmacy in History, 61:3-4 (2020)