Progressive. Queer. Feminist. Opinionated.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Gayle Rubin's "Thinking Sex"

I've got a reason you should be glad to read this blog: you're reading the writings of at least one person who is studying, for the first time, some of the major queer and gender theorists of the twentieth century. And so there shall be quotes as I have my mind blown by these amazing thinkers.

These quotations are from Gayle Rubin's essay "Thinking Sex." It was written in 1984, but damn if a lot of these statements don't ring true right now.

Contemporary conflicts over sexual values and erotic conduct have much in common with the religious disputes of earlier centuries. They acquire immense symbolic weight. Disputes over sexual behavior often become the vehicles for displacing social anxieties, and discharging their attendant emotional intensity (3).

Sex is always political. But there are also historical periods in which sexuality is more sharply contested and more overtly politicized. In such periods, the domain of erotic life is, in effect, renegotiated (4).

For over a century, no tactic for stirring up erotic hysteria has been as reliable as the appeal to protect children (7).

Western cultures generally consider sex to be a dangerous, destructive, negative force (13).

Modern Western societies appraise sex acts according to a hierarchical system of sexual value. Marital, reproductive heterosexuals are alone at the top of the erotic pyramid. Clamoring below are unmarried monogamous heterosexuals in couples, followed by most other heterosexuals. Solitary sex floats ambiguously. The powerful nineteenth-century stigma on masturbation lingers in less potent, modified forms, such as the idea that masturbation is an inferior substitute for partnered encounters. Stable, long-term lesbian and gay male couples are verging on respectability, but bar dykes and promiscuous gay men are hovering just above the groups at the very bottom of the pyramid. The most despised sexual castes currently include transsexuals, transvestites, fetishists, sadomasochists, sex workers such as prostitutes and porn models, and the lowliest of all, those whose eroticisms transgresses generational boundaries.

Individuals whose behavior stands high in this hierarchy are rewarded with certified mental health, respectability, legality, social and physical mobility, institutional support, and marital benefits. As sexual behaviors or occupations fall lower on the scale, the individuals who practice them are subjected to a presumption of mental illness, disrespectability, criminality, restricted social and physical mobility, loss of institutional support, and economic sanctions (14-15).

I'd post more, but I'm only to page fifteen in my reading! Nonetheless, I already highly recommend this piece. It's a stunning bit of theory.


Blogger Micah Rosen-Wolfe said...

Why do people put so much thought into the differences in people and what they think about sex. It should not matter one bit what anyones personal preferences are. Unless it involves rapists and child molesters, and then in cases like that we need to allow the death penalty.

Nice blog, but if this were a true free society, then your points would be mute. There is 2 reason for sex. Procreation and fun. Double standards and moral majority be damned.

10:46 PM


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