STRAIGHT SEX by Lynne Segal


Rethinking the Politics of Pleasure
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 A fresh and welcome feminist perspective on the place and value of heterosexual sex in society. Segal (Sex Exposed: Sexuality and the Pornography Debate, not reviewed) takes a stand against writers like Andrea Dworkin who, claiming to speak for feminism, portray heterosexuality as inevitably incompatible with women's interests. Beginning with a long history of the sexual revolution of the `60s, Segal notes that, since then, straight feminists have been less vocal than their lesbian counterparts about the pleasures of sex. As Segal sees it, that silence was a defensive response to a larger social backlash against changing gender roles and the growing economic and political power of women, which caused male anxiety about threats to masculinity. Any rethinking of heterosexuality, according to Segal, must confront and reconcile images that equate active sex with male and passive with female. In fact, she writes, ``what men want, as often as not, is to be sexually passive.'' To assume that all heterosexual sex as constructed in a male-dominated society essentially affirms manhood and therefore cannot be truly pleasurable for straight women is to deny the agency and pleasure available to women. Segal believes that achieving gender equality requires ``the success of feminist goals on all fronts, with the assertion of women's sexual autonomy but one factor among many,'' as well as the ``mutual recognition of similarities and differences between women and men, rather than upon notions of their opposition.'' Born in Australia and with a great deal of knowledge of Britain, Segal's investigation offers insight into the constructions of sexuality beyond the borders of the US, giving greater weight and evidence to her claims about heterosexual pleasures. Segal's analysis begins to fill a tremendous void in the literature and will be a welcome change to depressing and damaging stereotypes that depict all men as savage sexual beings and women as unwitting victims.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-520-20000-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994


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