AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractIntroduction: Consumer Sexualities The introduction to Consumer Sexualities: Women and Sex Shopping sets out the main objective of the book: to provide an insight into the experiential, everyday dimensions of sexual consumption. It gives an overview of the theoretical frameworks used, including Foucault’s technologies of the self and de Certeau’s notion of ‘making do’ with the materials of commodity culture. It outlines how the qualitative research, including interviews and accompanied shopping trips, was undertaken and considers some of the challenges of researching sexual cultures. Finally, an overview of the following chapters is provided. Chapter One - Sexual Consumption and Liberation in Feminism This chapter deals with a series of ‘moments’, from the late 1960s to the 1980s, in which feminist connections between sexual liberation and the consumption of sexual commodities (such as the vibrator and dildo) were forged. Drawing on the Spare Rib magazine archive alongside a range of other primary and secondary sources, the chapter explores how sexual consumption as an enabler of sexual, and even socio-political emancipation, emerged as a key area of debate, although not of agreement, over this period. These moments point to a foundation, both discursive and material, for the 1990s postfeminist ‘makeover’ of sexual consumer culture. Chapter Two - Consumer Sex: Technologies of the Self This chapter explores the role of sexual consumption in an age of postfeminist neoliberalism. Examining popular forms of sex advice for women, the chapter argues that women are enjoined to participate in technologies of the sexual self that enable them to work upon their sexual consumer knowledge and identities. Such technologies were taken up in the doing of the research itself, both by researcher and participants. Finally, there is a discussion of the question of women’s agency and lived experience – arguing for the importance of attending to women’s ambivalent everyday negotiation of postfeminist culture. Chapter Three - Sexual Spaces: Going Sex Shopping This chapter explores the sex shop as a space of ‘encounter’, where sexualities are both represented and experienced. Through the distinctions made between sex shops – as accessible, feminine, tasteful, classy, tacky, seedy, and even dangerous – gendered and classed sexual identities are constructed and performed whilst non-respectable sexual identities are othered. Performing sex shopping in a confident, respectable, tasteful, knowledgeable and feminine manner can be understood as a key regulatory technology of the sexual self through which female subjects are incited to articulate and work upon their sexual identities and lives in neoliberalism. Chapter Four - The Sexy Body: Wearing Lingerie This chapter argues that lingerie is used as a technology of the self through which postfeminist forms of sexiness and femininity are constructed. However, embodied narratives of pleasure and discomfort in lingerie can be understood as negotiations with the postfeminist and neoliberal construction of the ‘sexy body’ as a visual project to be worked upon. Finally, the chapter highlights the ways in which lingerie can be deployed in non-(gender) normative ways through the process of pleasurable laughter, performance and play. Chapter Five - Sexual Objects: Using ‘Sex Toys’ This chapter examines the various ways in which sex toys are mobilised as part of sexual practice. The body and sex toy are understood as an ‘assemblage’ that can enable and disable particular sexual pleasures, identities and practices. Women’s accounts point to the pressure to perform feminised emotional labour by working on the orgasmic sexual self and relationships. However, participants’ experiences also demonstrate that, as sex toys are made ordinary through their repeated everyday use and their assemblage with bodies, their meanings may shift in ways that often exceed or contradict their significance as commodities in postfeminist sexual culture. Conclusion: (Sexual) Politics of the Ordinary The conclusion to Consumer Sexualities explores the wider implications of placing the everyday at the centre of an analysis of contemporary sexual cultures. This approach demonstrates that commodities like lingerie and sex toys are adapted, negotiated and transformed as they become embedded in the mundane, ordinary contexts of everyday sexual use. I suggest that focusing the critical gaze on the ‘ordinariness’ of sexual materials, far from being placatory or complacent, is key to forming a critical response to restrictive or moralising popular debates around sexual cultures.
CitationWood, R. (2017). Consumer sexualities: women and sex shopping: Sexualities in Society. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.
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