Rubin on the Politics of Sex

I was particularly struck by the theme of politics in Rubin’s work, and found interesting connections between her work and Butler’s. I appreciated that her almost historical narrative built up to the distinction between critical thought about sex and critical thought about gender; she confronts a particular brand of feminist rhetoric which conflated gender with sexual orientation. She argues that sexuality must not only be constructed as a product of gender conflicts, but is also equally influenced by a number of other sociopolitical forces.

These sociopolitical forces and their effects on sex and sexual identity form the bulk of her essay. In her work she often makes reference to the ways in which power structures act on “perverts” in ways that shape them, both as a political group and as a group of individuals. She notes how the stigmatization and prosecution of sex workers often forced those with other jobs to abandon them, leading to higher financial instability and ghettoization. But for me, what called Butler to mind was the way in which the growing centralization of queer communities created a more cohesive culture and, possibly, more homogenized ways of performing homosexuality/kink/etc. Is this a reasonable extrapolation? Does this maybe provide some historical context to Butler’s complaints about labels?


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