This article investigates Gayle Rubin's 1984 article “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality” as a piece of “traveling theory.” It takes a key concept, “hierarchies of sexual value,” and its representation in a famous graphic, “the charmed circle,” to see what aspects of sexual politics in South Africa Rubin's concept can illuminate, both for the moment in which the essay was written and for the present. While the worlds Rubin's essay can describe have shifted, the essay's analytic power holds.

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