Annotation: Vance, Carol S. 1982. Pleasure and Danger: Toward a Politics of Sexuality

Vance, Carol S. 1982. Pleasure and Danger: Toward a Politics of Sexuality. In Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. Carole S. Vance, ed. Pp.1-27. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Carol S. Vance uses an example the development of discourse in the feminist movement from the 19th century until the present – which has seen the increased assertion for autonomy, departure from the protectionism of women against the “naturally” brute males, and which now sees a direction “toward pleasure, agency, self-definition” (23). By also looking at the development of the feminist movement, Vance brings to attention empowering shifts, as well as regressions, in the feminist political action, both of which are connected to socio-economic developments. She gives as an example the anti-pornographic ideology which according to her, only “restates the main premises of the old gender system” as it creates “new forms of shaming” of women (6). In her article, she calls for the use of an interpretative frames (15), although with the acknowledgment of their non-universality. According to her, there may be “social disjunction” (15) when particular lenses are used to understand invisible and disenfranchised groups. Vance thus acknowledges that within the feminist movement itself exists multiple, complex struggles and modes of resistance. writes that trying to gain a universal understanding of sexuality may be “economical and efficient,” but in the end, it may turn out to be “mistaken.” Thus, she calls for the use of non-universal and interpretative frames, because, according to her, there may be “social disjunction” (15) when certain lenses are used to understand invisible and marginalized groups. For instance, within the feminist movement itself, there exist multiple and complex struggles and modes of resistance (15). Vance writes that the category of women is itself composed of non-comparable groups, which cannot be explained using a single, mainstream framework, and thus there is a “potential for variation” (Vance 1984:15). As Vance suggests, the task now is to look deeper into these social constructions, and to ask: “If sexuality is constructed, what is the site of that construction?” (10). Vance writes that conclusions cannot be made by looking only at a single layer. As Vance asserts (1984:5), “The hallmark of sexuality is its complexity: its multiple meanings, sensations and connections.”

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