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Sex Machines:

The place of sex in our lives

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This Debate

Simon Blackburn, Catherine Hakim, Michele le Doeuff, Mark Vernon.

Some would say we live in a sex obsessed age, but just how important is sexuality to our being? Should we along with Darwin and Freud see sex as central to our lives, or is it a passing hedonistic activity? And if it is central to what extent does our sexuality determine how we think and how we influence others?


LSE sociologist and 'Erotic Capital' theorist Catherine Hakim, author of Lust and Cambridge philosopher Simon Blackburn, leading French postmodernist Michèle le Doeuff and journalist and former priest Mark Vernon get serious about sex.

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Ted Frost on 20/02/2012 8:22pm

@Laura Layton "no one can afford to pretend that beauty does not matter" ... really? I tell my kids it's something that is only relevant in the playground, that once they've grown up they forget notions of what's cool or who's pretty, and just get on with real life. And I for one really don't think "erotic captial" as she puts it, has too much of a say in the happiness of real life as I, or anyone I know, experiences it.

The Inquisitor on 20/02/2012 6:33pm

@Peter Bellerby - surely you're not suggesting that we're only obsessed with sex in the context of a loving, intimate relationship? Where does the phenomenal success of a thriving porn industry fit into this? It's clearly not just a question of desiring sex for the love and intimacy it CAN represent, but also just as an act in and of itself!! And to ignore the less idealistic role of eroticism in this area seems worryingly naive to me...

Peter Bellerby on 08/02/2012 11:21pm

Would Catherine Hakim go so far as to say that prostitutes reap the rewards of possessing 'erotic capital'? Surely, according to her logic, they are utilising it to its optimum, but I think it would be hard for anyone in their right mind to claim that they were winning against the patriarchal systems within which they exist. Also, the fact that prostitution can be brought into Hakim's theory as some kind of paradigm just makes le Doeuff's initial question all the more pertinent: why has she brought the language of economics into the realm of eroticism? Prostitution - to generalise - is an example of sexual relations emptied of their true eroticism. I think that real and compelling sexuality and eroticism are only really present in mutually respectful, trusting relationships. If we are obsessed with sex, it is partially an obsession with reaching the level of intimacy and trust which allows for sexual expression.

Laura Layton on 02/02/2012 5:02pm

Life has moved on since bra-burning feminists rejected the 'beauty culture'. Sexualised images are everywhere, and nowadays no one can afford to pretend beauty does not matter. Men too, having lost their monopoly of well-paid jobs, are investing in their erotic capital. Perhaps this explains Mona Lisa’s bemused smile. She knew what was coming.

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