Rubin? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Powerful Essays
The vulgar and refreshing paraphrase of a simplified hippy version of what shall be taken as topic: We are so oppressed. Maybe we are not repressed, but come on. We are so oppressed. Malcolm X knew it, Catharine MacKinnon knew it. Everyone knows it. One way we are oppressed is sexually. We might not just be repressed, while we still clearly are because there are laws and things. But, come on. Even if sexuality is socially constructed, it’s still very material, it is out there as much as anything - words are actions too.

Gayle Rubin’s Thinking Sex considers the political history of sex regulation, its current form, and a bit of theory about sexuality and its discourses. At the very apex of the flow of the article towards freedom in sexual practice, she draws the line at consent, straining out bad sex from good sex on the line in the sand of what is agreed to and what is not. Rubin’s piece fails to take seriously the History of Sexuality that she relies on for her rejection of political regulations about sexuality, and thus ends up advocating the consent limitation that recapitulates all the problems and fancies she finds in sexual legislation.

Rubin bemoans the oppressive laws that tell people what sexual practices are to be accepted and unaccepted, as if laws were to be obeyed - a presumption that already constitutes a particular type of subject in relation to a kind of power (the power of/in Law). Because we are so oppressed, unable to choose between sexual practices, we should give up these overrated relics of good sexuality and bad. Instead let everyone do anything, so long as they practice the vaunted ritual of consent. And while consent may be hard to locate, and does have problems, it should still b...

... middle of paper ... in the settled form Rubin’s partial agenda of consent relies on for its humanist restraints, as if recapitulating prevalent representations of the control of nuclear weapons - on a hair trigger, under control, mutually assured, and yet therefore also for these assurances mutually constitutive on the other side of the trigger and self-deploying in their fluxes of power and selves. Sexuality can be much more exciting for “bodies and pleasures” (Foucault 157) than this half-hearted effort lets itself argue. Why respond to a demand for bread with the offer to let them eat consent?


Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: Volume One. Vintage Books: New York, 1978.

Rubin, Gayle. “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality.” in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. ed. Vance, Carole. Pandora: London, 1992.
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