Jeffrey Weeks and his take on sexuality

one of the gurus on sexuality discourse. i took note of my favourite quotes for my dissertation. just thought to share for your brain’s picking.

‘Sexuality’ by Jeffrey Weeks

(17) …the emergence of new social movements concerned with sex – modern feminism, the gay and lesbian and other radical sexual movements – have challenged many of the certainties of the ‘sexual tradition’, and have offered new insights into the intricate forms of power and domination that shape our sexual lives. The politics of homosexuality have placed on the agenda questions about sexual preference, identity and choice. The women’s movement has forced a recognition of the multiple forms of female sexual subordination, from endemic male violence and misogyny to sexual harassment and a pervasive language of sexual denigration and abuse. It has demanded a recognition of women’s rights over their own bodies by re-posing questions about consent and reproductive rights, desire and pleasure…we are being forced to rethink what we understand by sexuality because of growing awareness of the tangled web of influences and forces – economics, race, gender, morals – that shape our emotions, needs, desires and relationships.

The ‘sexual tradition’ assumed that your sex was your fate or destiny: what you desired was what you were. Sexuality pinned you down like a butterfly to the table. If you break with this tradition, if you reject the idea that sexuality embodies its own values and goals, then you are faced with complex problems of alignment and choice. Confronted by such uncertainties, it is all too easy to retreat into moral or political absolutes, to reassert again, against all the odds, against all the evidence, that there is a true sexuality that we must find at all costs.

(25) Sexuality is not a head of steam that must be capped lest it destroy us; nor is it a life force we must release to save our civilization. Instead we must learn to see that sexuality something which society produces in complex ways. It is a result of diverse social practices that give meaning to human activities, of social definitions and self-definitions, of struggles between those who have power to define and regulate, and those who resist. Sexuality is not given; it is a product of negotiation, struggle and human agency.

(27) Five broad areas stand out as being particularly crucial in the social organization of sexuality: kinship and family systems, economic and social organization, social regulation, political interventions, and the development of ‘cultures of resistance’.

(35) and as society has become more and more concerned with the lives of its members, for the sake of moral uniformity, economic well-being, national security or hygiene and health, so it has become more and more preoccupied with the sex lives of its individuals, giving rise to intricate methods of administration and management, to a flowering of moral anxieties, medical, hygienic, legal and welfarist interventions, or scientific delving, all designed to understand the self by understanding sex.

(37) there are many structures of domination and subordination in the world of sexuality but three major axes seem peculiarly important today: those of class, of gender, and of race.


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