My TEDx Idea

Most of us see ourselves as living in a sexually liberated age. Having thrown off the shackles of prejudice and prudishness, we believe ours is an enlightened culture where we tolerate sexual difference and value sexual choice. Yet are we as well adjusted about sex as we tend to think we are?

Drawing on my research into asexuality (those who do not experience sexual attraction) and sexual culture, I argue that there’s a profound and often unrecognised inarticulacy and confusion about sex which plagues the modern consciousness. We talk loudly and frequently about sex and yet we’re far less able to articulate why sex matters to us and the role we think it should play in our lives. We’re plagued by confusions and anxieties, as clinical ideas about what constitutes sexual normalcy enter ever more into our daily lives.

This leaves a diminishing space within which to enjoy the freedom we have, with too little sex drive and too much sex drive – as well as a whole range of experiences in between – increasingly seen as a sign that something is wrong with us. I argue that western society has seen a huge and profound transformation in our personal & intimate lives over the last half century. So huge in fact that we are very rarely able to acknowledge its scale.

I talk about how this transformation is wrapped up in the spread of capitalism throughout the globe, as well as the onset of consumer society, suggesting that for all the pleasures brought by the sexual revolution, it has also brought countless problems and that, unless we face up to these and work out progressive ways to overcome them, much of what past generations struggled for risks being lost in the face of a moralising conservative backlash.

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