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Sexual antinomies in late modernity

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Publication details

DatePublished - May 2004
Issue number2
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)233-248
Original languageEnglish


It is widely assumed that late modern societies are becoming progressively more sexually liberal, regardless of whether this is seen as beneficial or not. However, ‘progress’ in this direction is, in actuality, very uneven and gives rise to a number of antinomies and associated anxieties. For example, in a society where erotic imagery is commonplace in the media, there are still enormous anxieties about preserving children’s sexual ‘innocence’ (i.e. ignorance); gay and lesbian chic exists alongside continued homophobic harassment and violence; queer destabilization of heterosexual norms co-exits with claims for inclusion into homosexual institutions; tolerance of pre-marital, even casual, sex and of marital breakdown and serial relationships coexists with intolerance of teenage pregnancy and the continuing reification of monogamy. This article will explore such tensions, raising questions about the continued ‘special status’ of sexuality and sexual relations.

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