Sexual anxiety in late capitalism

Although I agree that as long as there have been human beings there have been questions about sex, I believe that the current deluge reflects less eternal inquisitiveness than a modern epidemic of insecurity and worry generated by a new social construction: the idea that sexual functioning is a central, if not the central, aspect of a relationship. Such an emphasis naturally leads to tremendous concern about sex and a greater need for advice, education, support, and a variety of repair services.

The new importance given to sexuality and emotional intimacy in relationships is one result of large social changes in how we view marriage and life:

  • The purpose of marriage has shifted from economic necessity to companionship, resulting in dramatic changes in obligations and expectations.
  • There has been a shift in how e measure a person’s “success” to include physical vitality and life enjoyment along with material achievements.
  • Divorce and “serial monogamy” have become increasingly acceptable, making people anxious about maintaining relationships.
  • Changes in social attitudes and improvements in contraception have allowed women to view sexuality as separate from reproduction and as an avenue for self-expression and pleasure.
  • People are relying on personal relationships to provide a sense of worth they lack in the public sphere due to increased technology, mobility, and bureaucracy.
Leonore Tiefer, Sex Is Not a Natural Act, Pg 11, Westview Press

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