Hard Bargains: The Politics of Sex

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Men and women have always bargained for sex. In Hard Bargains, philosopher-lawyer Linda Hirshman and legal historian Jane Larson provide the first complete analysis ofpower in heterosexual relationships, combining an eye-opening legal history of sexual regulation with thought-provoking predictions of what the future might bring.
Hirshman and Larson tell a riveting tale that spans the centuries--from early accounts of adulterers hanging from the gibbet, to the impact of the ...
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Hard Bargains: The Politics of Sex

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Overview


Men and women have always bargained for sex. In Hard Bargains, philosopher-lawyer Linda Hirshman and legal historian Jane Larson provide the first complete analysis ofpower in heterosexual relationships, combining an eye-opening legal history of sexual regulation with thought-provoking predictions of what the future might bring.
Hirshman and Larson tell a riveting tale that spans the centuries--from early accounts of adulterers hanging from the gibbet, to the impact of the Kinsey Reports and Hugh Hefner's playboy philosophy, to the Swinging Sixties judge who argued in favor of sex with eleven year-olds. The book examines the factors that have shaped our notions of sex, from Catholic teaching to the theories of Sigmund Freud, and it explores the Supreme Court decisions of the last few decades that revolutionized the politics of sex. And Hard Bargains not only provides a deep understanding of historical and current disputes, it also offers striking predictions of what sexual bargaining will look like in the future--rape laws replaced by laws of sexual autonomy, adultery subjected to breach of contract action, fornicators responsible for each other's rent, prostitution considered an unfair labor practice. These are a few of the surprising--and surprisingly workable--solutions the authors foresee in the 21st century.
Hard Bargains takes a forthright and level-headed look at all aspects of one of the biggest controversies in contemporary American society--heterosexual sex--and delivers a radically new perspective on the sexual lives of women and men.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Hard Bargains is a book that will challenge your commitment to relational values as well as sharpen your understanding of power dynamics in male/ female sexual relationships. Hard Bargains is a book that is hard to agree with, and harder to reject out of hand."--Bimonthly Review of Law Books

National Law Journal
From Plato to Catharine MacKinnon, the authors trace the varying philosophical viewpoints of heterosexual politics. Their premise is that heterosexual sex is political and that 'much of sexual politics is worked out in discrete instances of one-on-one bargaining outside the public eye.' Although the narrative travels swiftly through history, it manages to feel remarkably thorough and give the impression that the authors filtered details out only when appropriate.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The main point of this pedantic text is that "sex is political" and that white women have historically bargained their way out of their status as possessions of white men. Retracing the path of male-female relations through Western civilization, the authors conclude that contemporary "bargaining" strategies in heterosexual relationships--the exchanges via "force, sale [or] gift/barter" that create "sexual community"--stem from the increasing presence of women in public political roles, and that heterosexual relations are, like other human relationships, based on power. Hirshman, a professor of philosophy and women's studies at Brandeis, and Nelson, a law professor at the Univ. of Wisconsin, draw on such diverse sources as J.S. Mill, Woodhull & Clafin's Weekly (an organ of 19th-century free love advocate Victoria Woodhull) and the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code to develop a densely historical, philosophical and legal portrait of sex relations. Yet despite such delvings into the cultural record, the authors fail to address adequately the significance of race to the power balance (though topics such as the Great Migration are touched on). The role of evolving homosexual, especially lesbian, identity in forming community standards of femininity or masculinity, obscenity or pornography, or even what is considered "political" receives similarly short shrift. Scientific sexology studies are reported on more fruitfully, and theological developments are touched on vis-a-vis sexuality. The final section proposes "a new structure of sexual regulation," but few beyond academe will have enough fortitude to make it that far. (Sept.)
Library Journal
"Male-female sex can be understood as a political relationship, even though it mostly takes place in private circumstances of one-on-one bargaining," write Hirshman (Brandeis) and Larson (Univ. of Wisconsin Law Sch.) in their scholarly look at the regulation of heterosexuality in the United States. The book moves from the impact of Christianity on British Common Law in the American Colonies to the writing of visiting French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville, the laws of coverture declaring husband and wife to be one male-dominated entity, the influential philosophies of John Stuart Mill and Charles Darwin, 19th-century social purity and free love movements, and finally the "libertine" loosening of social codes since the 1960s. Although the writing is often dryly academic, the book offers an incisive look into how morality gets shaped and regulated. As such, it is an important contribution to feminist theory and U.S. social history.--Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY
National Law Journal
From Plato to Catharine MacKinnon, the authors trace the varying philosophical viewpoints of heterosexual politics. Their premise is that heterosexual sex is political and that 'much of sexual politics is worked out in discrete instances of one-on-one bargaining outside the public eye.' Although the narrative travels swiftly through history, it manages to feel remarkably thorough and give the impression that the authors filtered details out only when appropriate.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195096644
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/29/1998
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.51 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Hirshman is Allen Berenson Distinguished visiting Professor at Brandeis University. She lives in Cave Creek, Arizona, and Falmouth, Massachusetts. Jane Larson is Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Introduction: Sex in Public 1
2 The Possibilities of Theory 15
3 Rediscovering Early Worlds 31
4 American Beginnings 59
5 Female Virtue and Public Order 79
6 Challenging the Republic of Virtue 103
7 Equal Freedom versus Equal Commitment 121
8 The Origins of Libertinism 155
9 The Law Catches Up 181
10 The Libertine Regime 211
11 There's No Such Thing As Free Love 223
12 The Rules of the Game 251
13 Hard Bargains 267
14 Conclusion 301
Index 305
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