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Plastic Sexuality

Gail Hawkes


The concept of plastic sexuality is developed theoretically by Anthony Giddens (1993) . “Plastic” refers to the malleability of erotic expression, in terms of both individual choice and frameworks of social norms. “Flexible sexuality” is argued to emerge in the context of the social changes in late modernity and postmodernity. It stands in contrast to the features associated with modernist sexuality, conceptualized as fixed, by biology or by social norms. “Fixed sexuality” is associated with the binaries of modernity – either heterosexual or homosexual, either marital (legitimate) or extramarital (illegitimate), either committed or promiscuous, either normal (coital) or perverse (anal, autoerotic, sadomasochistic). For Giddens, plastic sexuality is the consequence of effective contraception, of the economic and social independence of women that also “liberated” men from the constraints of traditional gender expectations. Plastic sexuality is that which can be shaped according to individual erotic needs and wants. It can also serve as a marker of individual identity and/or as the means by which to make radical sexual demands. Thus, the consequence of disengaging sex from reproduction is to increase the emphasis on pleasure and decrease the emphasis on phallic sexuality. Giddens's key claim for plastic sexuality is that it is “autonomous” sexuality. It is emancipatory in its positive ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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