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Combining sociological, feminist, and Marxist perspectives to examine the specific features of American life that shape our sexual outlooks and behaviors

The Americanization of Sex

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Edwin M. Schur

"[Schur] calls for a profound change in women's and men's sexual experience through nonsexist socialization...and through deemphasizing sexual objectification in advertising."
Library Journal

"One can deplore sexual indignity and exploitation without believing that the answer is ‘less sex.’ Far from turning the sexual clock backward, we need to turn the social clock forward.... We are not going to behave decently in the sexual area until decent behavior becomes the general norm.... Until we realize that, sexual progress is going to remain a forlorn hope."

With this rallying cry for sexual reinterpretation and social reform, Edwin Schur introduces his provocative evaluation of the meaning and practice of sexuality in contemporary American society. Covering some of the most controversial issues of our time, the author uses a combination of sociological, feminist, and Marxist perspectives to examine the specific features of American life that shape our sexual outlooks and behaviors.

Asserting that sexual issues are social issues, Schur identifies certain characteristics of American society that shape both "ordinary" sex and major sexual problems, including rape, harassment, prostitution, and pornography. The same themes that critics of American culture have addressed over the past half century are reflected, notes Schur, in modern American sexuality: superficiality and optimistic pragmatism; individualism and compulsive competitiveness; sexism and inequality; power-seeking and violence; a fixation with "success"; entrepreneurial instincts; and runaway consumerism. Focusing on three major tendencies—depersonalized sexuality, sex as a commodity, and coercive sex—the author examines how our cultural priorities and social structures "organize" our sexuality and affect both heterosexuals and homosexuals.

Arguing that sexual decency presupposes social decency, Schur determines that a meaningful sexual liberation will not be possible without basic sociocultural change. His study places current theoretical debates in a new perspective and reinterprets pressing issues of public policy.

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Reviews

"A theoretically and rhetorically powerful book.... Compelling reading."
Tikkun

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About the Author(s)

Edwin M. Schur is Professor of Sociology at New York University and author of Labeling Women Deviant: Gender, Stigma, and Social Control (co-published by Temple).

Subject Categories

Sociology
Sexuality Studies/Sexual Identity
General Interest

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