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This volume collects Gayle Rubin's essays covering topics ranging from BDSM to feminist debates on pornography and sex to lesbian and gay history. Rubin's introduction gives a history and context to this pioneering and much anticipated work.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction. Sex, Gender, Politics 1
1. The Traffic in Women: Notes on the "Political Economy" of Sex (1975) 33
2. The Trouble with Trafficking: Afterthoughts on "The Traffic in Women" 66
3. Introduction to A Woman Appeared to Me 87
4. The Leather Menace: Comments on Politics and S/M 109
5. Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality 137
6. Afterword to "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality" 182
7. Postscript to "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality" 190
8. Blood under the Bridge: Reflections on "Thinking Sex" 194
9. The Catacombs: A Temple of the Butthole 224
10. Of Catamites and Kings: Reflections on Butch, Gender, and Boundaries 241
11. Misguided, Dangerous, and Wrong: An Analysis of Antipornography Politics 254
12. Sexual Traffic: Interview with Gayle Rubin by Judith Butler 276
13. Studying Sexual Subcultures: Excavating the Ethnography of Gay Communities in Urban North America 310
14. Geologies of Queer Studies: It's Deja Vu All Over Again 347
Notes 357
Bibliography 425
Index 469

About the Author

Gayle S. Rubin is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Women's Studies, and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan.


"This book brings together a canonical collection of her writing, but it is more than a reader: she rewrites the genealogy of sexuality studies, giving us a precise intellectual history of sexuality studies that recognises the pivotal role played by academic homosexuals other than the now-feted and individuated Michel Foucault. She reminds us that British sociologists such as Mary McIntosh, Jeffrey Weeks and Ken Plummer, as well as American gay historians including Esther Newton, Jeffrey Escoffier, Martha Vicinus, John D'Emilio and Jonathan Ned Katz and many more besides, ploughed this new field." Sally R. Munt, Times Higher Education "It is rare to find an intellectual who founded an entire field of sexuality studies, whose theoretical contributions have been so far-reaching, and who continues to make rich, surprising, and singular interventions. These are the essays that riveted generations and claim our attention time and again. Gayle S. Rubin gives us the material life of sexual categories, lucid and careful argumentation, extraordinary and unprecedented archives. This brilliant collection is a gift for anyone who wants to follow the formidable trajectory of the most exacting and influential intellectual of sexuality studies." Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor, Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley "Deviations offers up articles that shaped the thinking of the modern feminist LGBT movements, while contextualizing the gradual institutionalization and canonization of sexuality studies. In providing the opportunity to think through the history of American feminism, including the radicalization of feminist debates on sexuality, Deviations provides an impetus for "thinking sex" even more critically." Svati P. Shah, Women's Review of Books, November/December 2012 "Gayle S. Rubin has been breaking new intellectual ground around gender and sexuality for almost four decades. This collection of essays lets us see in one place the breadth, depth, and profound originality of her thinking. It's a wonder to behold. As I reread some familiar pieces and encountered some new ones, I was reminded how much I am in her debt." John D'Emilio, co-author of Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America "Foundational essays and commentary from America's preeminent queer feminist intellectual; a must-have for any scholar and every library." Esther Newton, author of Margaret Mead Made Me Gay: Personal Essays, Public Ideas "Gayle S. Rubin has had an incalculable impact on the study of gender and sexuality over the past 35 years. Rubin's work changed the very language and vocabulary with which we discuss sexuality and gender. She coined the terms "sex/gender system" to describe "the set of arrangements by which a society transforms biological sexuality into products of human activity" and the "Charmed Circle," which describes the normative sexual behaviors our society privileges over the marginalized practices of the queer minority. Rubin's pioneering research on gay leather communities legitimized the anthropological study of sexual subcultures and her participation in the first known lesbian S/M group, Samois, and pro-sex activism helped to de-stigmatize pornography and S/M practices in the 80s when the anti-pornography movement was at its height. In short, Gayle S. Rubin is a living legend whose writing, research, and activism both chronicled and inspired LGBT culture as we know it today... I found Rubin's openness, both as a private individual revealing the personal context of her research and as a scholar taking stock of her life's work to be a rare and valuable look inside the life of an intellectual of her magnitude. Coming from a discipline like anthropology that stresses objectivity and the erasure of the observer, Gayle S. Rubin's reader re-inscribes the personal and the human into academic study and portrays a comprehensive history of the LGBT community through the life and words of one of its most original thinkers and meticulous chroniclers." Chase Dimock, Lambda Literary Review, January 2012 "A collection of academic essays on sex, gender and politics from pioneering queer theory and activist Rubin, covering a range of topics including pornography as a focus of feminist rage, punitive US sex laws and the seemingly inexhaustible topic of gender boundaries." - Diva Magazine, April 2012 "Finally: a collection of Gayle Rubin's writings. It is long overdue and sorely needed. For those who don't know Rubin, she is a professor of anthropology and women's studies at the University of Michigan. More significantly, she is one of America's most original thinkers about sexuality, especially radical lesbian sexuality. For those who've followed her intellectual journey over the last few decades, it's good to see many of her published articles collected in a single (though hefty) volume." David Rosen, The Brooklyn Rail, June 2012

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