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Beyond Reason and Desire: Political Thought and the Problem of Sex

By Paul W. Kahn

Abstract

Western political theorists avoid considering the ways individuals find meaning in the sexual body. Even those who defend pornographyfocus on the threat of censorship, not on the positive meanings of pornographic representation. Consider the film American Beauty. It tells the story of a middle aged man\u27s erotic infatuation with a teenager. As his ordinary life of family and work breaks apart, the fantasy of completion, of a perfect meaning achieved through an erotic engagement with the other, comes to dominate his life. He sets about to reform his body, to shape it, in preparation for the erotic encounter that will itself provide a meaning that transcends his ordinary experience. Yet, at the moment when he can move from voyeur to actor, he discovers that he cannot be other than the father he already is. The fantasy of action collapses when words are spoken. The erotic becomes a kind of detour of self-discovery that allows him to affirm again his actual life. Unfortunately, Western political theorists politely avoid considering the ways in which an individual finds meaning in and through the sexual body. They tend to regard all things having to do with the body as merely private matters. The result has been a failure to understand either love or eroticism. Indeed, even those who defend pornography focus on the threat of state censorship, not on the positive meanings of the pornographic representation

Publisher: Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository
Year: 2005
OAI identifier: oai:digitalcommons.law.yale.edu:fss_papers-1322
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