The 1960s and 1970s women’s movements have taught us that “the sexual is political.” When we describe those decades as years of sexual revolution or liberation, we refer not only to the sexual freedom afforded to many men and women in the West in particular by the invention of oral contraception. We also refer to the making of sex into a properly political question.
For many 1970s feminists and gay and lesbian activists, that “the sexual is political” meant that they saw an intrinsic link between sex and politics. What was that link? Does is imply that sex, far from simply expressing benign preferences, is riddled with power relationships? Does it mean that our sex, far from simply reflecting personal and innate taste, is shaped by the world we live in? Does it mean that through our sex we express our political beliefs? If so, can sex be assessed according to political criteria? Are there progressive and reactionary types of sex in the same way that there are progressive and reactionary politics? Does good sex lead to good politics and bad sex to bad politics?
This class is designed to understand and interrogate this link between sex and politics. We will focus on Anglo-Saxon and continental feminist, gay and lesbian, and radical works, and on various art works, literary and cinematographic, in order to analyze the multiples ways in which this link was made; what problems or questions was this link attempting to solve; what new difficulties, ambiguities, or problems it sometimes created.
Readings for this class will include Ti-Grace Atkinson, Dennis Altman, Michel Foucault, Paul Goodman, David Halperin, Cheryl Clarke, Anne Koedt, Audre Lorde, Mario Mieli, Kate Millett, Cherrie Moraga, Adrienne Rich, Gayle Rubin, Martha Shelley, Charley Shively, Monique Wittig.
In this writing-intensive course, we will use a variety of sources in order to improve everybody’s writing skills. Assignments include one personal narrative, one argumentative essay, one manifesto, 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.