AROUSAL by Martha Roth


Bodies and Pleasures
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A feminist writer teases, raising some provocative questions about power and pleasure, then pulling out of the discussion too quickly. Why must sexual pleasure be so intertwined with rage and cruelty, submission and dominance, punishment and shame? Can we envision a world in which sex would be “a spiritual path on which we can express our best selves?” In this thin, largely unsatisfying book, Roth (editor of Transforming a Rape Culture, not reviewed) asks such questions. She believes that transforming sexuality, freeing it of the brutality that can turn some people on, will transform the world. Yet she offers no suggestions on how to do that. And she doesn’t really make it clear why we should change sexuality per se. It’s hard to see what harm many fantasies are doing. Wouldn—t it be better to crack down on real violence: rape, child abuse, and sexism? And Roth is on even shakier ground when she gets more concrete. She writes, for example: “Following the work of Marija Gimbutas, most scholars now agree that early human societies worshiped female fertility, probably in the form of an earth goddess.” That’s far from the case; many scholars in Gimbutas’s own field, archaeology, dispute her interpretations. Too abstract for the general reader, and too shallow and unsupported for those who have a serious interest in these issues. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1998
ISBN: 1-57131-220-X
Page count: 184pp
Publisher: Milkweed
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998