Abstract

Over the past few years, right-wing political groups in France have made sexuality a focus of their concerns. Since the debate about political lesbianism in 1980, feminist research on sexuality in France has been markedly limited to research on abortion, contraception, and sexual violence. In this article, I look back at the US feminist “sex wars” as a crucial turning point in feminist thought on sexuality and examine different aspects feminists address when speaking about sexuality. I argue that the multiplicity of levels of thinking sex brought up by US feminists opposes a structural- and an individual-based perspective. These multiple levels crosscut on the topics of sexual practices, identities, and morals, the very themes of the sex wars. Together they compose the technology of power (Foucault 1976) that has been constructed under the name of sexuality in the nineteenth century. The contributions of the US feminist debate on sexuality help to broaden an understanding of sexuality in today's politics in France. But in taking a closer look at the US feminist sex wars, it appears that they actually coincide with the US construction of French feminism and French theory. The trajectories of Monique Wittig's and Michel Foucault's works provide examples of the productivity of translations. They also stand for different feminist strategies of thinking sex that after a closer examination do not seem so radically opposed any more. Through this analysis the deconstruction of sexuality as an entity is suggested in re-embracing the critical questions set by the authors of the sex wars.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.