Advertisement

The Neosexual Revolution

Abstract

The affluent societies of the Western world have witnessed a tremendous cultural and social transformation of sexuality during the 1980s and 1990s, a process I refer to as the neosexual revolution. Up to now, this recoding and reassessment of sexuality has proceeded rather slowly and quietly. Yet both its real and its symbolic effects may indeed be more consequential than those brought about in the course of the rapid, noisy sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The neosexual revolution is dismantling the old patterns of sexuality and reassembling them anew. In the process, dimensions, intimate relationships, preferences, and sexual fragments emerge, many of which had been submerged, were unnamed, or simply did not exist before. In general, sexuality has lost much of its symbolic meaning as a cultural phenomenon. Sexuality is no longer the great metaphor for pleasure and happiness, nor is it so greatly overestimated as it was during the sexual revolution. It is now widely taken for granted, much like egotism or motility. Whereas sex was once mystified in a positive sense - as ecstasy and transgression, it has now taken on a negative mystification characterized by abuse, violence, and deadly infection. While the old sexuality was based primarily upon sexual instinct, orgasm, and the heterosexual couple, neosexualities revolve predominantly around gender difference, thrills, self-gratification, and prosthetic substitution. From the vast number of interrelated processes from which neosexualities emerge, three empirically observable phenomena have been selected for discussion here: the dissociation of the sexual sphere, the dispersion of sexual fragments, and the diversification of intimate relationships. These processes go hand in hand with the commercialization and banalization of sexuality. They are looked upon as being controlled individually through the mechanisms of a fundamentally egotistical consensus morality. In conformity with the general principles at work in society, the outcome of the neosexual revolution could be described as self-disciplined and self-optimized lean sexuality.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Bataille, G. (1957). L'Érotisme, Minuit, Paris.

  2. Benjamin, J. (1988). The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, an d the Problem of Domination, Pantheon, New York.

  3. Butler, J. (1993). Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex,” Routledge, New York.

  4. Cesarano, G. (1974). Manuale di Sopravvivenza. Part II: L'Insurrezione Erotica, Nani Cesarano, Bari.

  5. Comfort, A. (1963). Sex in Society, Duckworth, London.

  6. Dannecker, M., and R. Reiche (1974). Der gewöhnliche Homosexuelle [The Everyday Homosexual] , Fischer, Frankfurt.

  7. Elias, N. (1969). Ñber den Prozeβder Zivilisation [On the Process of Civilization], 2 vols, 2nd ed., Francke, Bern.

  8. Evola, J. (1958). Metafisica del Sesso, Atanòr, Rome.

  9. Foucault, M. (1972). L'ordre du Discours, Gallimard, Paris.

  10. Foucault, M. (1976). Histoire de la Sexualité. Tome 1: La Volonté de Savoir, Gallimard, Paris.

  11. Freud, S. (1895). Entwurf einer Psychologie [Model for a Science of Psychology]. In S. Freud, Aus den Anfängen der Psychoanalyse [From the Early Years of Psychoanalysis] , Imago, London 1950, pp. 371–466.

  12. Giddens, A. (1992). Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies, Polity Press, Cambridge, U.K.

  13. Green, R., and Money, J. (1960). Incongruous gender role: Nongenital manifestations in prepubertal boys. J. Nerv. Ment. Dis. 130: 160–167.

  14. Irigaray, L. (1984). Éthique de la Différence sexuelle, Minuit, Paris.

  15. Kaplan, L. J. (1991). Female Perversions: The Temptations of Emma Bovary, Doubleday, New York.

  16. Masters, W. H., and Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human Sexual Response, Little, Brown, Boston.

  17. Money, J. (1955). Hermaphroditism, gender and precocity in hyperadreno-corticism: Psychologic findings. Bull. Johns Hopkins Hosp. 96: 253–264.

  18. Money, J. (1985). Gender: History, theory and usage of the term in sexology and its relationship with nature/nurture. J. Sex Marital Ther. 11: 71–79.

  19. Reich, W. (1936). Die Sexualität im Kulturkampf [Sexuality on the Battlefield of Culture], Sexpol, Copenhagen.

  20. Schmidt, G. (ed.) (1993). Jugendsexualität [Youth and Sexuality] , Enke, Stuttgart.

  21. Schmidt, G. (1996). Das Verschwinden der Sexualmoral [The Demise of Sexual Morals], Klein, Hamburg.

  22. Sigusch, V. (1984). Die Mystifikation des Sexuellen [The Mystification of the Sexual], Campus, Frankfurt and New York.

  23. Sigusch, V. (1988). Was heiβt kritische Sexualwissenschaft? [What is critical sexual science?]. Z. Sexualforsch. 1: 1–29.

  24. Sigusch, V. (1989). Kritik der disziplinierten Sexualität [A Criticism of Disciplined Sexuality], Campus, Frankfurt and New York.

  25. Sigusch, V. (1991a). Die Transsexuellen und unser nosomorpher Blick. Teil I: Zur Enttotalisierung des Transsexualismus [Transsexuals and our nosomorphic view. Part I: The detotalization of transsexualism]. Z. Sexualforsch. 4: 225–256.

  26. Sigusch, V. (1991b). Die Transsexuellen und unser nosomorpher Blick. Teil II: Zur Entpathologisierung des Transsexualismus [Transsexuals and our nosomorphic view. Part II: The depathologization of transsexualism]. Z. Sexualforsch. 4: 309–343.

  27. Sigusch, V. (1995a). Geschlechtswechsel [Sex Changes], Rotbuch, Hamburg.

  28. Sigusch, V. (1995b). Transsexueller Wunsch und zissexuelle Abwehr [Transsexual desire and cissexual defense]. Psyche 49: 811–837.

  29. Sigusch, V. (1995c). Anteros. In P. Weiermair (ed.), Erotic Art: From the 17th to the 20th Century, Stemmle, Kilchberg/Zurich, pp. 66–67.

  30. Sigusch, V. (1996a). Die Zerstreuung des Eros. Ñber die “neosexuelle Revolution” [The dispersion of Eros. On the “Neosexual Revolution”]. Der Spiegel 50(23): 126–130.

  31. Sigusch, V. (1996b). Die Trümmer der sexuellen Revolution [The Ruins of the Sexual Revolution]. Die Zeit 51(41): 33–34.

  32. Sigusch, V. (1997a). Kultureller Wandel der Sexualität [The Cultural Transformation of Sexuality]. In V. Sigusch (ed.), Sexuelle Störungen und ihre Behandlung [Sexual Disorders and their Treatment], 2nd ed., Thieme, Stuttgart, pp. 16–31.

  33. Sigusch, V. (1997b). Metamorphosen von Leben und Tod. Ausblick auf eine Theorie der Hylomatie [Metamorphoses of life and death. Prospects for a theory of hylomatia]. Psyche 51: 835–874.

  34. Sigusch, V., and Schmidt, G. (1973). Jugendsexualität [Youth and Sexuality], Enke, Stuttgart.

  35. Simon, W. (1994). Deviance as history: The future of perversion. Arch. Sex. Behav. 23: 1–20.

  36. Stoller, R. J. (1968). Sex and Gender: Vol. I. The Development of Masculinity and Femininity, Science House, New York.

  37. Stoller, R. J. (1975). Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred, Pantheon, New York.

  38. Tiefer, L. (1995). Sex Is Not a Natural Act and Other Essays, Westview, Boulder, CO.

  39. Ussel, J. van (1975). Intimiteit [Intimacy] , Van Loghum Slaterus, Deventer.

  40. Wouters, C. (1994). Duerr und Elias. Scham und Gewalt in Zivilisations-prozessen [Duerr and Elias: Shame and violence in the processes of civilization]. Z. Sexualforsch. 7: 203–216.

Download references

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sigusch, V. The Neosexual Revolution. Arch Sex Behav 27, 331–359 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1018715525493

Download citation

  • CULTURAL AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION OFSEXUALITY
  • NEOSEXUAL REVOLUTION
  • NEOSEXUALITIES
  • SEXUAL REVOLUTION
  • THEORY OF SEXUALITY