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9 thoughts on “Anticlimax A Feminist Perspective on the Sexual Revolution

  1. says:

    It’s criminal that Sheila Jeffreys isn’t as well known as other feminist writers of her era She lays everything out so clearly and plainly that you’re honestly angry that no one else really considers these ideas or criticisms as valid Anticlimax was published in 1990 and many of Jeffreys’ predictions for the future of feminism have borne poisonous fruit likely well beyond her worst imaginings and certainly mine sexual liberation is viewed as the same thing as women’s liberation promiscuity is empowerment women happily participate in their own oppression and call it feminist etc Radical feminism will both save and ruin your life if you read too much of its theory

  2. says:

    I have this awful paranoid thought that feminism was mostly invented by men so they could like fool around you know 'women free your mind free your body sleep with me'when I first watched before sunrise I was probably around 15 16 I wasn't directly involved in or particularly influenced by feminism back then but I remember feeling perplexed upon hearing this line how could celine utter such a thing? I wasn't sure what to make of itthis simple line has been haunting me for years whenever I happen to rewatch the film I always pause and ponder over its meaning and implications sometime around my late teens and early twenties I dismissed it as utter bullshit as I believed women having sex with whomever whenever or wherever they like was somewhat? empowering probably and uite simply because it emphasised and cherished our individual freedom to choose etc well now this sounds like utter bullshit yet I never clearly asked myself or anyone else actually what was so empowering about it I later became sceptical and found some truth in it though I did not explore it further because I was troubled by the way its criticism was primarily directed at feminism itself now I have some answers thanks to jeffreys when we replace feminism with libertarian feminism or sexual libertarianism in general in that line it makes sense it is not paranoia but an insightful comment then it is also uite telling that the main target of such a criticism is not sexologists gay male and later ueer theorists or liberal feminists who actually promoted and advocated for sexual revolution but rather feminismdworkin and firestone's impetuous embrace of and bizarre call for polyamorous pansexuality that baffled me earlier also makes much sense after delving into and gaining an overall view of the context they lived in and were affected byone can also see the seeds and major arguments of unpacking ueer politics being planted here the latter offers much thorough precise and in depth critiue though

  3. says:

    Sheila Jeffreys is not as well known at least in the United States as other late second wave radical feminist theorists such as Mary Daly Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon However Jeffreys is perhaps the best late second wave radical feminist writer to read if one wants a clear understanding of those features of the ideology which have rightly alienated subseuent feminist and LGBT positive thinkers as well as the important insights of late second wave radical feminism which third wave feminism is poorer for having lost Jeffreys’s book “Anticlimax A Feminist Perspective on the Sexual Revolution” was originally published in 1990 In reading it I have sought to understand it both as a historical document and as a work of theory which represents a viewpoint that is in many respects even compelling than it was when the book was originally written More than any other document I have read so far “Anticlimax” provides for the contemporary reader a crystal clear view of both the embarrassing shortcomings and the valuable insights of late second wave radical feminist thinking By far the two weakest chapters in the book are the second chapter which is titled “Decensorship” and the fourth chapter which is titled “The Failure of Gay Liberation” While the arguments presented in favor of Jeffreys’s positions are far from compelling in these chapters they are nonetheless fascinating for their paradigmatic presentation of ideas which were in wide circulation in radical feminist and lesbian separatist circles at the time Jeffreys published this book In “Decensorship” Jeffreys makes the argument that the publication of novels with sexually explicit themes has been harmful for women In particular I focused on Jeffreys’s assessment of Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” because it was the only book which Jeffreys writes about in this chapter that I have actually read although I was previously aware of all of the books she mentioned Jeffreys believes that “Lolita” is a book which glorifies the sexual abuse of women and celebrates pedophilia Troublingly Jeffreys seems to support this position not so much based upon her own reading of the book as it is based upon the assessment of the book put forth by other critics Contrary to the understanding of these critics “Lolita” is not a book which glorifies pedophilia and sexual assault In truth it is of a cautionary tale about the harm that comes to all involved as a result of a man’s decision to exploit a young woman sexually Perhaps these critics and Jeffreys were confused because of the fact that the pedophile is the story’s narrator but it seems obvious to me that he is to be understood as an unreliable narrator whose actions ultimately cause both himself and Lolita a great deal of harm But perhaps the most disturbing feature of this chapter is Jeffreys’s conviction that any work of art in which women or sexuality is depicted in a way which she deems politically incorrect ought to be banned One frustrating aspect of reading Jeffreys is the realization that she so often seems oblivious to the reality that sometimes worthwhile values have to be balanced against one another Like many activistsintellectuals with a clear and uncompromising vision of how the world should be Jeffreys sometimes shows a disturbing degree of disregard for the value of the respect for individual autonomy and pluralism that is necessary to the maintenance of a free society The chapter titled “The Failure of Gay Liberation” says surprisingly little about sexuality in the lesbian community This is surprising because that is the community which Jeffreys herself identifies with Sadomasochism among lesbians and the presence of butchfemme roleplaying among lesbians are mentioned briefly and while it is obvious that Jeffreys disapproves of these practices she elaborates on their place in the lesbian community very little Reading “Anticlimax” it is easy to appreciate the criticism that has so freuently been made of lesbian separatists – that in their rush to promote the politics of lesbianism they neuter it of its sexual power The majority of the chapter is instead taken up with Jeffreys’s criticisms of gay men and transsexual people The sensationalistic way in which Jeffreys discusses gay male promiscuity is particularly problematic Interestingly while “Anticlimax” was published at a time when the HIVAIDS crisis was in full swing it is scarcely mentioned in Jeffreys’s discussions of gay male sexuality Another lowlight of this section of the book is Jeffreys’s brief invocation of Michel Foucault a theorist whose work it is soon obvious she does not really understand Reading Jeffreys’s analysis of the psychology behind transsexuality it becomes obvious why some many trans people continue to feel hurt and angry about how radical feminists and lesbian separatists have often treated them Thankfully as trans people have become visible and politicized feminist and ueer people of my generation have become accepting of them and sympathetic to their struggles It is worth noting that Jeffreys’s views on transsexuality have not changed much; this year she published a book on transsexuality which proceeds to argue that transsexual identity is simply one example among many of the ways in which the existence of gender as a social construct harms individuals and society at large In “Anticlimax” Jeffreys claims that transsexual identity is often motivated by a desire to avoid a homosexual identity From where I stand the late second wave radical feminist and lesbian separatist positions on transgender issues have discredited the movement and its philosophy than any other single issue where feminists and ueer people of my generation are concerned Reading Jeffreys’s position on transsexuality in “Anticlimax” makes it abundantly clear that it was for the best that feminists and ueer people have largely moved away from this way of thinking about and relating to trans peopleDespite Jeffreys’s misguided attitudes towards transgender people certain aspects of gay male culture and the censorship of literature which she views as sexist “Anticlimax” also illustrates many of the ways in which the hegemony of sex positivity within third wave feminist thought makes it nearly impossible for feminists today to articulate a coherent critiue of the sexist ways that sexuality often functions in our culture This was the insight of much second wave radical feminism and its absence from recent feminist theory and activism is detrimental to women as a class While mainstream third wave feminists no doubt recognize some of the ways in which cultural ideas about sexuality do tangible harm to women hence the high priority many third wavers assign to anti rape activism and the significance of “rape culture” as a theoretical construct their hesitancy to pass judgment on any practice which someone may claim gives them sexual satisfaction keeps third wave theorists of sexuality from going to the end of their thoughts about sexuality and gender Conseuently a great deal of third wave feminist writing on sexuality and gender is incoherent and inchoate In “Anticlimax” Jeffreys’s thesis is that contemporary Western culture constructs male and female gender roles in a way that is akin to the roles of participants in BDSM In fact for Jeffreys heterosexual relations are the original BDSM Men’s sexuality is constructed as active and dominant while women’s sexuality is constructed as passive and submissive Men and women growing up in our society internalize these roles and this internalization effects how we respond sexually to others For Jeffreys the sexual revolution of the twentieth century has been problematic because it has not liberated women sexually; it has instead simply shored up male dominance by opening up new avenues for the sexual exploitation of women and demanding that women cooperate enthusiastically in sexual practices which are not in their best interests The most fascinating chapters in the book are the first chapter “The 1950s” and the third chapter “The Sexual Revolution” Much as “Decensorship” and “The Failure of Gay Liberation” highlight the good reasons why the intellectual and activist tradition that Jeffreys represents has fallen increasingly out of fashion “The 1950s” and “The Sexual Revolution” show the contemporary reader some of the valuable insights that contemporary feminist theory has lost as a result of this change in the zeitgeist of social justice politics In the first sentence of “The 1950s” Jeffreys states “Marriage guidance and marital sex illustrate a central premise of ‘Anticlimax’ that the heterosexual couple embodies a relationship of power and control rather than representing a conseuence of nature biology or sexual preference” In the first sentence of the second paragraph of the chapter she continues “Sex in this scheme of things was not a natural and spontaneous seeking after pleasure by men and women but a regulatory mechanism designed and constructed to enforce male dominance and female submission” The evidence which Jeffreys marshals in support of this claim is impressive In particular this structuralist analysis of heterosexuality goes a long way towards explaining the centrality of penis in vagina PIV intercourse in our culture’s hierarchy of sexual practices Recently I have been reading some of the critiues of PIV intercourse from contemporary radical feminists with blogs online In particular I have enjoyed the blogger Fact Check Me’s blogs “Femonade” and “PIV on TV” which discuss this issue in some depth Due to the structure of female anatomy most women cannot orgasm consistently solely from PIV intercourse There are many sexual practices which women generally tend to find enjoyable and many which many men find at least as satisfying as well Non reproductively motivated PIV always carries some risk of unintended pregnancy and it also carries a much greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases than many other sexual activities especially for women PIV also puts women at risk for unpleasant side effects such as yeast infections and urinary tract infections In order to prevent pregnancy while engaging in PIV intercourse couples that are not infertile must rely on some form of contraception This responsibility usually falls on the woman as do the side effects safety risks inconvenience time commitment and monetary cost of managing contraceptive use Given the hassles and even serious potential harms associated with PIV intercourse compared to other sexual practices it seems bizarre that this practice is the one which our culture has singled out as the most important sex act there is However if we adopt Jeffreys’s analysis which views heterosexuality and the practices associated with it as a way to shore up male power over women we can see that the things which make PIV intercourse unattractive from the standpoint of sex as a pleasurable way to bring couples together make it an ideal tool of male supremacy On page 21 of her book Jeffreys writes “In the 1890s feminist theorists stated that sexual intercourse should take place only for the purposes of reproduction They considered that once every few years should suffice They saw sexual intercourse as being contraindicated for women because it led to unwanted childbearing or the necessity for ‘artificial’ contraception which made them feel like machines It led to various ailments and venereal diseases” Nonetheless as Jeffreys teaches us making women enthusiastic about PIV intercourse has been one of the most important projects that sexologists have taken on since at least the nineteenth century Even women who had developed satisfying alternatives to PIV for both themselves and their husbands were seen by the sexologists as in need of fixing On page 38 of the book Jeffreys recounts a fascinating but deeply disturbing episode in which a doctor performs a painful surgical procedure on a young woman engaged to be married so that her vagina will be receptive to penetration by her husband’s penis After relaying this anecdote Jeffreys observes “The preparation of this young woman for her role as an efficient hole for her husband seems to have taken place in direct opposition to her will” The most poignant observation that Jeffreys makes in “The Sexual Revolution” concerns the concept of “inhibitions” Starting in the 1960s sexologists began to speak about women’s hesitancy to engage in any given sexual practice as “inhibitions” which carried the connotation that these reservations were evidence of a wrong headed puritanical backwards and irrational attitude towards sexuality Jeffreys on the other hand believes that these so called inhibitions have actually often functioned for women in particular as a healthy instinct towards self preservation Jeffreys believes that for women a lot of gaslighting takes place around issues of sexuality and the deployment of the notion of inhibitions is particularly representative of this phenomenon in a post sexual revolution world The fifth chapter of “Anticlimax” entitled “Feminism and Sexuality” synthesizes the key ideas discussed in the first four chapters of the book and provides commentary on issues of sexuality that were contemporary when the book was published The sixth chapter entitled “Creating the Sexual Future” closes the book by laying out Jeffreys’s vision for what the ideal future of sexuality would be Compared to most of the third wave feminist discourses about sexuality that are currently in circulation Jeffreys is refreshingly honest and logical in some ways about the state of sexual politics in our society and what that means for the status of women The social construction of sexuality in the contemporary Western world according to Jeffreys is structured by gender roles which situate men as dominant and women as submissive Gender is inherently bound up with notions of power control and oppression Jeffreys emphasizes her belief that we live in a culture in which all women are taught to eroticize their own subordination regardless of their politics or other values and as a result of this Jeffreys problematizes the notion which she associates with the sexual revolution and which is now associated with large swathes of third wave feminist and ueer thought and activism that anything which one finds sexually arousing is inherently good and beyond political critiue Instead she argues that we need a new language of sexuality which would allow us to discuss those sexual turn ons which are nonetheless not positive for us and that are instead evidence of the ways in which we have come to experience our sexuality in ways which are bound up with sexism Jeffreys is correct to assert that the violence degradation objectification and misogyny so widespread in pornography tell us something deeply disturbing about how men in our society experience their sexuality and think about women Especially poignant is Jeffreys’s insight as to why pornographic materials aimed at women who are sexually attracted to men have never uite caught on – in our society Jeffreys explains women experience men sexually as dominant powerful and in control while men experience women sexually as submissive passive pleasure objects When one looks critically at the gendered structure of heterosexual sexuality it becomes clear that male pin ups directed at women are not sexually intelligible Another insight of Jeffreys’s which flies in the face of a great deal of feminist thought is that heterosexual and bisexual women’s complete sexual liberation is not possible as long as heterosexual and bisexual male sexuality remains unaltered Heterosexual female sexuality is complicated by the fact that it is all about members of an oppressed sex class directing their desire towards men who are members of the reigning sexual class The threat of sexual assault also structures women’s sexuality in a way that has no counterpart for men The increasingly conventional wisdom that heterosexual and bisexual women can become sexually liberated by becoming sexually aggressive towards men also misses an important point which is that a woman who does these things and therefore sees herself as sexually liberated will continue to be seen by many men as inappropriately sexually aggressive Women cannot adopt men’s attitudes towards sexuality with the expectation that they will have similar outcomes because of differences in how the two groups are socially situated This is the primary message of “Feminism and Sexuality” In “Creating the Sexual Future” we finally get a glimpse of the ideal with which Jeffreys would like to replace the current sexual status uo Jeffreys states that she sees “heterosexual” as defined not by sexuality directed at a person with a different anatomy than oneself but as the sexualizing of difference particularly differences in power For this reason Jeffreys believes that relationships between two men or two women can be heterosexual relationships insofar as difference is eroticized by the partners in such a relationship For Jeffreys homosexual desire is the positive alternative and it is denoted by the sexualization of mutuality and euality While Jeffreys states that she believes that a “homosexual relationship” in this sense of the term is currently not possible between a woman and a man she explicitly states that reconstructing male and female sexuality such that euality was sexualized in the way that power differences now are could in time lead to a situation in which men and women could have healthy and eual sexual relationships with each other which revolve around mutuality Reading and subseuently thinking about this book has been rewarding and challenging for me While Jeffreys’s unfortunate apologism for censorship negativity towards transgender people and sensationalism of gay male sexuality offended and frustrated me her central insight – that women will never be truly free as long as male sexuality is constructed as it currently is – is a powerful one and one that I believe is largely correct I would have also liked to have seen Jeffreys put forth a forceful critiue of PIV intercourse I wish the book had contained discussion of the politics surrounding abortion and contraception as harm reduction strategies which women employ to exercise some control over their bodies and lives in reference to PIV centric male sexuality Despite this shortcoming as a woman I found Jeffreys’s understanding of sexual politics to be largely affirming For a long time now women have been expected to be sexual on men’s terms Jeffreys’s message is that it shouldn’t have to be this way Instead we need to start asking men to move towards us when it comes to sexuality I do have some reservations about Jeffreys’s position that sexual turn ons which revolve around emotionally difficult issues are inherently bad – sometimes they can be a way for people to work through these issues in a relatively healthy way However I agree with Jeffreys that the way in which women have been trained by our culture to eroticize their own subordination is ultimately self defeating and that the way in which men in our society have learned to eroticize their power over women is harmful to women as well The most important message in Anticlimax is that what is defined as “sexy” in our society is all too often that which works against the interests of women We must recognize this fact and begin to work to overcome it by building new models of sexuality

  4. says:

    If you’re feeling economical with your time she covers a lot of the same ideas in unpacking ueer politics which also includes up to date info but cool read esp if you’re interested in specifically 70s80s expressions of the stuff she’s criticizing

  5. says:

    Jeffreys drives me crazy and it took me one hell of a time to finish her book there are some interesting analysis of rape culture and sexology of the 70s if you can tolerate her transphobic anti sex worker language Also it’s a good book to read if you wanna see some TERF and SWERF arguments so you know how lame they are

  6. says:

    Very interesting read Shockingly relevant almost of the pro porn bdsm and heterosexuality arguments are alive and well almost three decades on Most sections are very convincing although I was let down by the last chapterLots of talk in this book about the importance of having language to express our experiences; very little thought given to lesbians having their language stripped away in service of a homogenous political lesbianism ie any woman not datingsleeping with a man Lesbians have a uniue political relevance outside of just disengaging from men Also the characterisation of homosexual desire as something that must be worked at as in women can't have an organic sexual attraction to other women is a total denial of reality for actual lesbiansIt's pretty rich ha to criticise Adrienne Rich for placing heterosexual women who focus their lives around other women on the lesbian continuum when Jeffreys places celibate women on the lesbian continuum herself They both reinforce heterosexuality as default; only a women's participation or non participation in heterosexuality mattersBut oh well It's good to read something you disagree with every so often

  7. says:

    Jeffreys was my introduction to radical feminism Turns out that she can become a bit repetitive Most of the works I liked had that reference to early sexologists the failures and lies of Freudian psychology the differences between gay and lesbian culture the castrating ability of transgenderism etc The problem is that her solution to this is 'become one of us' This shows the obliviousness present in the radical feminists for whom every woman aiming to marry and have a family while repudiating any sort of absuive scenary and behavior is a handmaid in Atwood's terms This didn't have much new bits of info for me Guess I'll just stick to her anti ueer theory work The only good thing this book made me realize is that psychologists have been stepping outside their area forever even aiming to describe anatomy in tremendously wrong ways

  8. says:

    This is definitely a book aimed at those open minded women It delves into the inherent sexuality of our society which hasn't been too positive towards women seen as submissive beings whose main role is to please men This book goes to describe why some 'works of great literature' are actually fiction disguises for graphic abuse and violence to women eg Lolita Transgenderism trans sexuality sadomasochism pornography rape and pedophilia are also discussed in depthAll in all this book has the ability to uestion your whole mindset about how you think the society works but only if you let it to A must read for all feminists for sure

  9. says:

    What and whose sexual revolution? Sheila Jeffreys writes with stunning insight about this anticlimactic revolution which supports male supremacy and does nothing to liberate women's sexuality First wave feminists called this male dominated approach to free love the omni sexual virus Any one any time any where is fair game Why resist male dominant vs female submissive sexuality being repackaged as revolutionary? Read this book and find out why

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Anticlimax A Feminist Perspective on the Sexual Revolution

Summary Anticlimax A Feminist Perspective on the Sexual Revolution

Jeffreys argues that sexual freedom sometimes directly opposed actual freedom for women Anticlimax traces sexual s and attitudes from the 1950s to the 1990s exploring the nature of both straight and gay relationships and offering original and compelling commentary on Lolita Naked Lunch The Joy of Sex the MastersJohnson report and other representations in the literature on sexual Very interesting read Shockingly relevant almost of the pro porn bdsm and heterosexuality argument The Devious Duchess pro Geometric Dimensioning And Tolerancing: Self Study Workbook porn bdsm and heterosexuality argument

Free read ✓ E-book, or Kindle E-pub ´ Sheila Jeffreys

“A rigorous savvy contemporary intellectual history Read this book” – Andrea DworkinThe sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s is remembered as a time of great freedom for women But did the sexual revolution have the same goals as the Women’s Liberation Movement Was it truly liberation for women or just another insidious form of oppressionIn this provocative book Shelia I have this awful paranoid thought that feminism was mostly invented by men so they could like fo Breaking into Information Security: Learning the Ropes 101 provocative book Shelia I have this awful Men in Kilts paranoid thought that feminism was mostly invented by men so they could like fo

Sheila Jeffreys ´ 9 Summary

ItyAt the root of sexual liberation Sheila Jeffreys finds an increasing eroticisation of power differences within heterosexual lesbian and gay communities Her alternative vision of sexual relations based on euality is a major statement in the debates over sex and violence that remain relevant in discussions over SlutWalk sexualisation of girls and the pervasiveness of porn cultur What and whose sexual revolution Sheila Jeffreys writes with stunning insight about this anticlim