pt. 1. Sexual Politics. 1. Great Expectations: The Quest for Sexual Fulfillment in Twentieth-Century America. 2. False Promises: Reconnecting Eros and Romance -- pt. 2. Sexual Ethics. 3. Defining the Moral Boundaries of Eros: The Feminist Sexuality Debates. 4. AIDS and the "Homosexual Question": The Gay Sexuality Debates. 5. Beyond Romanticism and Libertarianism: Towards a Pragmatic Sexual Ethic.
In the 1990s Americans are divided on virtually every issue surrounding sexuality. Emotion and political passion have come to dominate sexual matters, and the debates on teenage pregnancy, pornography, homosexuality, abortion, and AIDS reveal deep social conflicts. The sexual sphere is so entangled that it defies analysis or even description. In Embattled Eros Steven Seidman seeks to clarify some of the major dynamics and patterns of contemporary American intimate culture. He shows that at the root of the major conflicts are two sexual ideologies, the libertarian and the romanticist. Examining the strengths and limits of each ideology, he suggests broad outlines for a sexual ethic that goes beyond the current polarization. In part one Seidman argues that we should reject our usual way of looking at recent history--a sexual revolution in the '60s followed by a conservative backlash in the '80s, an ongoing struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of repression. Between the '60s and the '80s he argues, there transpired neither a sexual revolution nor counter-revolution but a heightened conflict over the meaning of sex, its relation to pleasure, romance, and self-identity, its proper moral role in private and public life. In part two Seidman's primary purpose is to analyze moral arguments over sexual norms and practices. He chooses the sex debates that occurred within feminism and the gay male community in the late '70s through the '80s as his sites for moral engagement, as it is here that the debate over sexual ethics has been given its fullest elaboration. In conclusion, Seidman offers a pragmatic ethic that revolves around the concept of sexual and social responsibility as a bridge between libertarians and romanticists. The main issue is how to preserve the expansive notion of sexual choice, diversity, and pleasure contained in the libertarian ethic yet also retain standards that allow us to offer social and personal criticisms of intimate life. Building on the work presented in Romantic Longings, the author's history of intimacy in the United States, Embattled Eros presents a sophisticated yet accessible analysis of contemporary sexual life and its moral conflicts. Emphasizing feminist and lesbian and gay issues, the book is for all readers interested in contemporary sexuality.