People often describe the late 1960s and 1970s as years of “sexual revolution.” By this they sometimes refer to the sexual freedom afforded to many men and women in the West by the invention of oral contraception and the emergence of countercultural, women, youth, as well as gay and lesbian, movements. To be sure, it was not the first time in history that some could enjoy sex with partners of either sex, explore a variety of sexual practices, disconnect sex from reproduction as well as from love or monogamy. But it was certainly the first time that people did so en masse and at a time when there was a political and philosophical discourse available for them to use in order to counter the stigmatization that their predecessors had been subjected to: the 1960s and 1970s libertines were no longer sinners or perverts, they were revolutionary.
For many of them, indeed, there was more to “sexual revolution” than just an increased and unparalleled sexual freedom. That revolution could be sexual, and sex could be revolutionary meant that they saw an intrinsic link between sex and politics. This link is most visible in such phrases as “sexual revolution,” “radical sex,” or in slogans like “the personal is political” or “the sexual is political.”
This class is designed to understand and interrogate this link. We will focus on Anglo-Saxon and continental philosophical, political, and sexological works, and various art works, literary and otherwise, in order to analyze the multiples ways in which this link was made, and try to understand in what sense the sexual can indeed be political.
- How can a sexual practice lead to a revolutionary change?
- What does it even mean to say that some sexual practices are revolutionary?
- Does it imply that others are reactionary or even counter-revolutionary? Which ones?
- What does promiscuous sex have to do with revolution?
- What does homosexual sex have to do with the struggle against capitalism?
- How can one’s homosexuality increase his or her awareness of racism?
- How does the revolution change one's sexual life?
- How does sex impact the revolution?
As we grow aware of what is meant by the words "sexual" and "revolution," we will also be able to ask whether, and in what sense, a sexual revolution did indeed, or did not, happen.
Readings for this class will include Dennis Altman, Jean Genet, Paul Goodman, Daniel Guérin, Erica Jong, Anna Koedt, Herbert Marcuse, Mario Mieli, Kate Millett, Wilhelm Reich, Martha Shelley, Charley Shively.
In this writing-intensive course, we will use a variety of sources in order to improve everybody’s writing skills. Assignments include two argumentative essays as well as one freewheeling one, dedicated to understanding of the link between sex and politics, the usage we can make of it in our own lives, as well as its limitations. In addition, there will be one research paper, as well as various short assignments throughout the academic term. Students will also read their peers’ work and give them feedback and suggestions for improvements. Participation in class discussions and careful readings of the texts assigned will account for a significant portion of final grade.