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Future Sex

This presentation interrogates the common cultural ideas: that it is vital to be sexual, that sexuality is about gender, that there are normal sexual practices & that we need to distinguish normal & abnormal sex.

Meg John Barker

on 8 October 2013

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Transcript of Future Sex

Future Sex
I want to be normal
Compulsory sex / sexuality
Sexual 'orientation' key aspect of identity defines who we are
Relationships defined on basis of whether sexual 'I'm in a relationship' (hierarchy)
Sex regarded as relationship barometer & lack of sex = reason for break-up
-> imperative to be sexual
Sexuality all about gender
Defining feature of sexual 'orientation' = our gender & gender we're attracted to - fixed object: man/woman attracted to men/women
Non-binary sexualities largely invisible/stigmatised
Monophilic not polyphilic
One true way of sexual practice
Sexual Dysfunctions
302.71 Male hypoactive sexual desire disorder
302.72 Female sexual interest/arousal disorder
302.72 Erectile disorder
302.74 Delayed ejaculation
302.75 Premature (early) ejaculation
302.73 Female orgasmic disorder
302.76 Genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder
302.79/70 Other specified/unspecified
Dividing lines of normal / abnormal
Sex advice / therapy - overwhelming desire to be sexually normal, & fear of not being
The outer limits: Bad, abnormal, unnatural sex
The charmed circle: Good, normal, natural sex
Rubin's charmed circle (1980s)
Current situation
sexualisation, subjectifiction
The outer limits: Remain
excluded, marginalised,
stigmatised, pathologised
The charmed circle: Normal + Great (hetero) sex = imperative
4 elements of current 'normal' sex
Interrogated via imaginings of future sex: scifi/fantasy & online sexual communities
Compulsory sex / sexuality
Sexuality all about gender
One true way of sexual practice
Dividing lines of normal / abnormal
Reversed model of sex
Embracing uncertainty (no new crab bucket)
Implications beyond sex:

People are in process rather than fixed - recognition of all relationships
Addressing tendency to polarise
Turning outwards to question social messages, rather than inwards to police ourselves
Focus on treatment of ourselves & others rather than arbitrary distinctions
Rubin, G. (1984). Thinking Sex: Notes for a radical theory of the politics of sexuality. In C. S. Vance (1992), Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. pp. 267-319. London: HarperCollins.
Barker, M. (2012). Rewriting the Rules: An integrative guide to love, sex and relationships. London: Routledge.
Fantasy/scifi imaginings
Sexual communities
Fantasy/scifi imaginings
Fantasy/scifi imaginings
Fantasy/scifi imaginings
Sexual communities
Sexual communities
Sexual communities
Asexual (ace) communities - challenging whether people / relationships should be defined by sex
Relationship anarchy (RA) / polytical - questioning relationship hierarchies (whilst open relationships / polyamory often maintain love/sex relationship hierarchies)

Questioning focus on sexual relationships with others (e.g. bromance, companions)
Job/mission as primary partner
Bisexual/queer communities
Non-binary gender
Open non-monogamies

Gender as defining feature of identity/attraction
Singular attraction
Torchwood (Jenee Wilde's research)
Jack, Owen & Tosh - all attracted to >1 gender
All characters (including Gwen, Ianto) form multiple close relationships (polyphilic)
'So many species, so little time'
Diverse sexual practices - further dimensions added to previous model e.g. whether sexual, dominance/submission, etc.
To what kinds of people are you attracted?
What kinds of situations, images, roles, activities, or fantasies - if any - excite you physically and/or psychologically?
Does any of this vary over time?
Slash - gender, kink (Buffy), generation (HP) - same time/space?
What if default was different?
Mindful sex
Paraphilic Disorders
Intense & persistent sexual interest other than ... in genital stimulation or preparatory fondling with phenotypically normal, physically mature, consenting human partners. Disorder if it causes distress or impairment to self/others.
302.82 Voyeuristic Disorder 302.4 Exhibitionistic Disorder
302.89 Frotteurietic Disorder 302.83 Sexual Masochism Disorder
302.84 Sexual Sadism Disorder (humiliation, bondage, suffering)
302.2 Pedophilic Disorder 302.81 Fetishistic Disorder
302.3 Transvestic Disorder 302.89/9 Other/Unspecified
‘Most people find it difficult to grasp that whatever they like to do sexually will be thoroughly repulsive to someone else, and that whatever repels them sexually will be the most treasured delight of someone, somewhere … Most people mistake their sexual preferences for a universal system that will or should work for everyone’ (Rubin, 1984, p. 283)
"There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example," said Oats (an Omnian priest).
"And what do they think? Against it, are they?" said Granny Weatherwax.

"It's not as simple as that. It's not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray."



"There's no grays, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."

"It's a lot more complicated than that—"

"No. It ain't. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts."

"Oh, I'm sure there are worse crimes—"

"But they starts with thinking about people as things..."
Kaplan (1979) model: DSM categories
Desire -> Excitement/Arousal -> Orgasm
Denman coercive/transgressive, not normal/abnormal
Kink communities - Consent culture
From individual to collective responsibility
From enjoyment = ok, to no means no, to yes means yes (enthusiastic consent), to awareness of power dynamics constraining agency
From sex, to whole relationships, to micro level interaction, to structures and cultures
Feeds sexual distress - balancing normal & great sex without 'something unspeakable skittering across'
Full transcript