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A quickie with Dr Michael Goodyear

March 23rd, 2009

Dr Petra

This week’s Quickie is with one of my favourite academics, Dr Michael Goodyear. I admire Michael for his tireless attempts to get people focused on issues of good practice around researching sex work and representing marginalised groups. He’s one of those people who doesn’t just keep his work within the academic domain; he gets out there, makes a difference, and inspires others to do the same.

Michael Goodyear is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He moved to Halifax in 1998, where he lives in the Old South End neighbourhood in a Georgian heritage home with his artist partner and dog.

A native of New Zealand he was educated in England and Australia, where he received his medical degree at Monash University in Melbourne, before moving to Canada in 1980, where he completed a fellowship at the University of Toronto before joining the Faculty at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. He holds fellowships in the Australasian, Canadian and American Colleges of Physicians.

His clinical interests are in medical oncology, research methodology, clinical epidemiology, public health, knowledge translation, feminist health care ethics, women’s health and social justice. He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Leadership in Health Services. He has worked with the World Health Organization, the World Medical Association and the Ottawa Group on restoring normative values in science and shifting from a culture of competitiveness and secrecy in research to one of collaboration and transparency.

Michael first became involved in women’s health as an undergraduate when Beatrice Faust, the Australian feminist writer, recruited him to work for the Women’s Electoral Lobby. He held positions with the Family Planning association and Abortion Law Reform Association in Australia.

Recently he has extended his experiences of knowledge translation and management in the biomedical area to the social sciences, in particular the area of marginalised groups. In an effort to combat what he saw as major gaps between evidence and policy in sex work research, he helped coordinate Knowledge Networks in the United Kingdom and Canada, and is developing networks in Australia and his native New Zealand.

He writes regularly for the British Medical Journal and blogs at Sex in the Public Square.
Michael’s Website
Michael’s resource directory (this is a fantastic source of information about research and activism on prostitution – well worth a look!)

Over to you, Michael…

What have been your proudest achievements?
1. My two children
2. Getting an agreement with the World Health Organisation to register all clinical trials before recruiting starts
3. Translating some of the structures worked out in bio-medical models for knowledge translation to the social sciences, using sex work research and policy as a model

What do you still have left to achieve?
Ensuring that public policy is soundly evidence based and derives from independent policy research.

Who are your heroes/role models?
1. Petra Boynton for popularising research
2. Catherine Healy for her tireless and highly skilled advocacy for sex workers

Tell me one thing about you that might surprise me.
( – is there anything that escapes Petra’s eyes?) That’s a tough one, I am fairly transparent, as in there is an awful lot out there in the public domain.

That I am a Kiwi? That I acted on the stage through university? That I wanted to be an ordained missionary and studied theology? That I was suspended for six years in a fight for academic freedom? That I wrote the original article on history of feminism in Wikipedia?

What do you do to relax?
Gardening, classical music, art galleries, poetry

What makes you happy?
Affirmation, when people tell you something you did changed their lives

What projects are you currently working on?
1. The factors that influence sex work legislation in different jurisdictions,
2. Replacing rules and regulations with moral reasoning in research ethics
3. Bringing a feminist gaze to areas in science and medicine traditionally only interpreted through a male lens
4. Popularising evidence as part of knowledge translation

What are the main problem areas in sex/relationships we need to deal with currently?
The idea that there is too much of it, and that some of it is normal and some of it is abnormal, that is the imposition of binary concepts of sexuality. We need more not less sex out there in the commons, but with navigational aids.

What can’t you live without?
Human relationships

What sex education did you receive when you were a child/teenager?
A book from my parents by Cyril Bibby (?How life is handed on), about age 11, that a teacher at school promptly confiscated. I think it was more about birds than anything else. Did Zoology A levels, otherwise it took a medical degree and meeting Beatrice Faust

What sex information do you wish you’d been told as a child/teenager?
Just to be able to feel one could ask any question and that it would be answered honestly and factually

What’s the best sex tip you’ve ever heard?
(that’s tough) – I think to not assume anything, and to listen to your partner

Name your guilty (or not so guilty) pleasures
Not really into guilt – I enjoy wine and music

What do you consider to be the main innovations in sex/relationships over the past century?
The internet, blogging

Where do you see our sex lives going in the future?
I am not that optimistic, sometimes it seems like a dialectic. There may be more visible presence and more discussion, but the same problems continue at both a personal and public policy level

What are the main threats to our sex/relationships lives today?
The imposition of morality, that is the morality of a dominant section of the population – if anything we are becoming less tolerant, partly, at least in the UK as a result of New Labour’s policies and fear mongering.

Is it possible to have great sex?
Yes – but it is a product of the people involved

Describe an average day/week in your job?
Far too much time on the internet, answering email – compared to creative writing and researching

What are the main things people worry about in relation to their sex lives?
Whether they are normal or not – due to attempts to define normality

What causes those worries?
See above – also media, which becomes a bench mark, compared to personal exploration

If you could plan school sex education programmes, what would you put on the curriculum?
I would ask the children

What sex/relationships issues are worth campaigning for?
Responsibility, tolerance, and an acceptance of infinite diversity

Are there any issues in sex/relationships are given too much attention?
I think if anything there is too much gratuitous advice which may not necessarily be evidence based (eg magazine covers)

Are there any issues in sex/relationships are overlooked or neglected?
The fluidity of gender and sexuality as opposed to its categorisation

What question(s) do you wish I’d asked you? List them – and answer them too!
You’re tough – (see also below!) – I don’t know really, maybe whether anything has really changed, or just its perception. For instance the evidence suggests that the only real change in ‘sexual liberation’ in the twentieth century was premarital sex, despite the dominant media imagery.

Thanks Michael – and if anyone wants to read more of Michael’s blogging (which is fantastic) you can catch up with him regularly over at Sex and the Public Square.

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