Has the sexual revolution failed?(8 Posts)
While there were clearly good things about the sexual revolution (the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the winning of further gay rights; abortion rights; female contraception), it can also be alleged that it led to the wholesale commodification of human sexuality - a condition that sits uneasily with the feminist project. In Western societies, all injunctions against sexual pleasure are being removed (with paedophilia the final taboo). Arguably, while this allows women to express themselves sexually it has also resulted in the creation of a sexual marketplace where they are positioned as instruments of sexual pleasure rather than human subjects and existential agents.
Liberal, 'pro-sex', pro-porn feminists are, in my controversial opinion, partly responsible for this culture of sexual consumerism. Rather than attempt to reform heterosexual monogamy so that a man and woman enjoy equal power in a relationship, they rejected the concept of monogamous love wholesale. In its absence there is no other way to conceptualise sexual participants than consumers engaged in transactions. In accordance with capitalist ideology, they are exchanging sexual capital.
Such a culture results in the dehumanisation of men and women. The much publicized crisis posed by porn culture and the deleterious manifestations of 'hook-up' culture on college campuses in the US attests to this. Even female sexual offending, although still very much fractional compared to that of men, is now on the increase.
How in the 21st century can we develop a more humanistic model of sexual relations that accords equal status to men and women?
Sexual liberation was in some ways positive; but it did have a dark side of nihilism and anti-humanism that has been appropriated by market forces. Much liberal feminism lacks a coherent riposte to this allegation - fetishizing as it does 'personal freedom' over social ethics.
It's an interesting thought but I think it's a bit naive to think sex as a commodity and women as objects only came along with the sexual revolution. Prostitution has existed for as long as civilisation. Slavery and the use of slaves for sex meant that women were bought and sold bodily, prostitution is mentioned ancient texts, the Romans were completely at home with the idea of selling sex. Even into more modern times when women didn't have the earning power of men marriage was the most common route to a safe place in society. All those coming out balls and what not were just an elaborate way of exchanging sex for money.
I think what has changed is that it's much more in our faces. Whereas a Victorian would have to make a bit of an effort to find vice, we can invite it into our homes at the click of a button.
Optimistically, I hope we're going through a particularly florid period of readjustment and once equality (slowly, slowly) becomes more entrenched, this phase will fade away.
Good point ThisisMrs: Clearly sexual commodification has always existed. Certainly prostitution, and in particular child prostitution, was infinitely worse in the UK during the nineteenth century. Although globally, the internet has resulted in more women and female children being sexually trafficked than there were slaves at the height of the slave trade - which is staggering.
In the ancient or feudal societies you mention female oppression was very different I think. Women were simply chattel, just a notch above slaves, in a stratified society - which was obviously terrible. But now being a disposable commodity is being confused with empowerment. That's odd.
I'm afraid I don't share you optimism. This is the beginning of a dark age in which sexual exploitation will become a norm.
Sexual exploitation of women and children has always been the norm. The fact that it now seems wrong is actually a great leap forward.
The sexual revolution isn't over, in fact it's in its infancy. We have millennia of crap to overturnn and we're not going to do it in 50 or 60 years. It's a process.
Patriarchy will slowly evolve into something else, but sexual exploitation and violence will not end with it I fear. New power structures will firm. Power never goes away.
Not all libfems are pro porn. And women are certainly in the minority with respect to power in the porn industry - directing, producing, owning studios etc.
Porn is a manifestation of patriarchy, not of liberal feminism.
No it hasn't, it's totally succeeded.
The sexual liberation was always about freeing men sexually.
Women weren't really meant to be beneficiaries, they were just the instrument by which men would be liberated.
So yeah. That went better than most men could have imagined in 1950.
The real issue is inequality- which determines vulnerability to exploitation as well as demand for sexual fulfilment being unmet, commodified and sold.
In a more equal world we might live more like bonobos- and free love would be more equally shared between the haves and the have nots, and no one would feel the need to buy sex or sell sex (which is need not just a patriarchal construct- men are also selling sex under exploited circumstances driven by inequality).
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