Regulating Sex: The Politics of Intimacy and Identity

By Elizabeth Bernstein; Laurie Schaffner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14

Sex and Freedom

JANET R. JAKOBSEN AND ELIZABETH LAPOVSKY KENNEDY

Virtually any contemporary social movement faces deep contradictions in the effort to turn social movement into social policy. These are the contradictions of dealing with the liberal state, contradictions that are intensifying at the current moment as neoliberalism takes over the globe (at least in its imagination of itself, and a very powerful imagination it is). 1 These contradictions are particularly acute when it comes to sexuality.

The United States government presents itself as a guiding light in promoting freedom, a freedom ensured and protected by human rights, but the U.S. has at best a contradictory record with regard to human rights, particularly in relation to issues of gender and sexuality. For example, in its role of promoting freedom and protecting human rights, the U.S. has recently granted asylum in a number of cases, some promoted with a particularly high profile, in which those applying for asylum did so on the basis of threats against their person in the form of “genital mutilation” or “gender violence.” 2 Without the same high profile, the U.S. has also begun granting asylum in some cases based on the persecution of sexual minorities. At the same time, the U.S. maintains a number of regressive policies on these same issues. The U.S. refuses to ratify the United Nations treaty on women's rights and continues to have trouble fighting domestic violence against women, trouble that was certainly not alleviated by the 2000 Supreme Court decision vitiating part of the Violence Against Women Act (see U.S. v. Morrison, “Supreme Court Strikes Down Violence Against Women Act” 2000). Moreover, in 1996 the federal government passed a ban on same-sex marriages despite the fact that at the time no state allowed such

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