Class, commodity, consumption
Theorizing sexual violence during the feminist sex wars of the 1980s
in Marxism and America
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Feminists on both sides of the 1980s sex wars used Marxist theory to analyze sexual violence, its relationship to pornography, and whether pornography liberated or oppressed women. In their analyses, they considered three core Marxist concepts: class, commodity, and consumption. While most agreed that women formed a separate class, they differed on how that class was formed, whether sexual violence played a role in constituting it, and if pornography contributed to the oppression of women as a group. Feminists including Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin excoriated the pornography industry, focusing on its corporate exploitation of women and outlining the society-wide consequences of men’s consumption of pornography. Pro-sex feminist such as Ellen Willis and Gayle Rubin countered Gramscian interpretations, contending that women and men could separate fantasy from reality in their private use of smut. Through subversive readings, they argued, women could imagine a more liberated future.

Marxism and America

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