The Sex Obsession: Perversity and Possibility in American Politics

New York Univ. Aug. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781479846085. $30. SOC SCI
It has become common sense that U.S. politics around issues of sex, race, and gender are an intransigent political struggle between Christian conservatives and secular libertines. Yet how true is this narrative—and whom does it serve? Gender and sexuality studies scholar Jakobsen (Barnard Coll.; Love the Sin) argues this simplistic dichotomy of religious traditionalists vs. secular progressives shores up, rather than dismantles, persistent inequalities. By disaggregating identities and policy issues (abortion rights, same-sex marriage, immigration, police violence, workers’ rights, etc.) that intersect in everyday lives, powerful legal, political, and business interests maintain the illusion of progressive advancement while the exploitative structures of a racialized, gendered global neoliberal system remain firmly in place; a dynamic Jakobsen calls “mobility for stasis.” Drawing on examples from the last four decades of American politics, culminating in a close read of three 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action, voting rights, and same-sex marriage, Jakobsen demonstrates how single-issue progress can mask stability or retrenchment over time. She closes with examples of effective, intersectional organizing that led to more radical change.
VERDICT Highly recommended for those seeking greater clarity about how sex, race, and gender are mobilized in American political life.
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