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Sex and sociality : comparative ethnographies of sexual objectification

Rival, Laura M., Slater, Don and Miller, Daniel (1998) Sex and sociality : comparative ethnographies of sexual objectification. Theory, Culture and Society, 15 (3-4). pp. 295-321. ISSN 0263-2764

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Abstract

This paper is intended as a critique of recent theorisations of sexuality and desire, which have led performative theorists to contend that gender is an effect of discourse, and sex an effect of gender. It results from informal discussions between the three authors on the mechanisms through which sexuality gets objectified in modernity. The ideas of influential Western thinkers (in particular Georges Bataille) are confronted with field data on sexuality – as lived and imagined – that the authors have been gathering in Amazonian societies, Trinidad, and on the internet. Ethnographic data and Western theories about the nature of eroticism are used to argue that the utopian definition of sexuality as sexual desire and will to identity is too divorced from the mundane, love, domesticity and reproduction in a broad sense and based on a too limited sphere of social experience. Consequently, to apply this definition to how and why humans engage in sexual activity leads to erroneous generalisations. For when encountered ethnographically, sexuality consists of practices deeply embedded in relational contexts. The paper concludes with the proposition that debates about the possibilities of human sexuality and of its political intervention will make no significant progress unless we stop repeating that “sexuality is socially constructed”, and start looking at the ways in which it is lived as part of everyday social life.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://www.sagepub.co.uk/journal.aspx?pid=105795
Additional Information: Published 1998 © SAGE Publications. LSE has developed LSE Research Online so that users may access research output of the School. Copyright © and Moral Rights for the papers on this site are retained by the individual authors and/or other copyright owners. Users may download and/or print one copy of any article(s) in LSE Research Online to facilitate their private study or for non-commercial research. You may not engage in further distribution of the material or use it for any profit-making activities or any commercial gain. You may freely distribute the URL (http://eprints.lse.ac.uk) of the LSE Research Online website.
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Rights: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/usingTheLibrary/academicSupport/OA/depositYourResearch.aspx
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2006
URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/169/

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