vol 15 - 1989

In her review essay on feminism and sexuality in the 1980s, published in Feminist Studies in the fall 1986 issue, B. Ruby Rich noted how debates over sex, and pornography in particular, had divided U.S. feminists. “Good girls” appeared to be ranged against “bad girls” in a debate that was characterized by more heat than light, or to use Rich’s metaphor, the women’s movement was caught up in sex wars. This issue brings together a group of essays, creative writing, and reviews that address one aspect of this "war"—the problematics of heterosexuality. They point to the continuing centrality of sex as an issue for feminists, but they also indicate the growing complexity and scope of the subject.

Mariana Valverde, in her survey of the current sex debates, examines the range of issues covered by key spokeswomen, from Catherine MacKinnon to Rosalind Petchesky, from sex as inherently dangerous for women to sex as a right. She points to the need to reconceptualize the terms of debate, to turn away from narrow, essentialist definitions of women's bodies and instead to contextualize sexual behavior. She suggests that "the task before us is perhaps best envisaged as the effort to discern and bring about the conditions for a nonalienated sexuality, rather than as an attempt to maximize the sexual rights of individuals or groups."




Mariana Valverde
Beyond Gender Dangers and Private
Pleasures: Theory and Ethics in the
Sex Debates

Hilary Manette Klein
Marxism, Psychoanalysis, and
Mother Nature

Xiao Zhou
Virginity and Premarital Sex in
Contemporary China

Leila J. Rupp
Feminism and the Sexual Revolution in
the Early Twentieth Century:
The Case of Doris Stevens

Coral Bracho

Carol E. Robertson
The Mahu of Hawai'i (an Art Essay)

Scott MacDonald
Interview with Lizzie Borden

Sharon Thompson
The Old Age Home

Peter F. Murphy
Toward a Feminist Masculinity
(a Review Essay)

Rosmarie Waldrop
from Inserting the Mirror

Robin Tolmach Lakoff
Women and Disability (a Review Essay)

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