Joe Ackerley’s ‘Family Values’

  • Matt Cook
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


Joe Ackerley was part of the next generation to George Ives. Born in 1896, the year after Wilde’s prosecution, Ackerley died just seven weeks before the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 partially decriminalised sex between men in England and Wales. By the time he was doing most of his writing — in the post-World War II period — the idea that you were either heterosexual/homosexual had more cultural purchase and sexological and psychoanalytical explanations were in wider circulation.1 As a result there is a different self-consciousness in Ackerley’s work than we saw with Ives’ and he interrogates sexual difference in relation to his family much more directly. There are yet some echoes of Ives’ experience. Both were Cambridge graduates and were inspired by the ancient Greeks and by Edward Carpenter; both had a passion for working-class men. They each lived in central north London — Ackerley for a while in Little Venice, another literary queer enclave in the interwar period and about half an hour’s walk from Ives in Adelaide Road. The men were linked too by a deep but complex investment in families and family-like relationships. While Ives committed his thoughts on the ‘private’ realm of the family to the at least notionally private space of his diary, however, Ackerley wrote directly for publication — ‘deprivatize[ing] the modern gay man’s sexual anguish’ in his astonishing frankness about his desires and sex life, and his relationships with his parents, siblings, dog and lovers.


Family Life Sexual Offence Family Home Interwar Period Maternal Uncle 
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Copyright information

© Matt Cook 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matt Cook
    • 1
  1. 1.Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonUK

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