To become a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at George Mason University, one must complete two fields—literature reviews of areas of study. My fields were “Mass Culture and Urban Space” and “Contemporary Theories of Sexuality.” Attached below is the “Contemporary Theories of Sexuality” field, but before that is my introduction.
In this overview of contemporary theories of sexuality, I trace sexuality as a public and political issue. The purpose is to understand how a supposedly private issue became a space to regulate bodies, but also a space for marginal subjects to contest norms. Theories I consider will discuss in numerous ways the political importance of history, social constructionism, essentialism, desire, bodies, identity, community, and normativity. I follow the field’s trajectory by examining four major movements: psychoanalysis, feminism, gay and lesbian studies, and queer theory, and their initial and continuing impact on how sexuality is theorized.