The War on Sex

Book Pages: 512 Illustrations: 6 illustrations Published: March 2017

Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Sex and Sexuality, Law > Human Rights

The past fifty years are conventionally understood to have witnessed an uninterrupted expansion of sexual rights and liberties in the United States. This state-of-the-art collection tells a different story: while progress has been made in marriage equality, reproductive rights, access to birth control, and other areas, government and civil society are waging a war on stigmatized sex by means of law, surveillance, and social control. The contributors document the history and operation of sex offender registries and the criminalization of HIV, as well as highly punitive measures against sex work that do more to harm women than to combat human trafficking. They reveal that sex crimes are punished more harshly than other crimes, while new legal and administrative regulations drastically restrict who is permitted to have sex. By examining how the ever-intensifying war on sex affects both privileged and marginalized communities, the essays collected here show why sexual liberation is indispensable to social justice and human rights.
Contributors. Alexis Agathocleous, Elizabeth Bernstein, J. Wallace Borchert, Mary Anne Case, Owen Daniel-McCarter, Scott De Orio, David M. Halperin, Amber Hollibaugh, Trevor Hoppe, Hans Tao-Ming Huang, Regina Kunzel, Roger N. Lancaster, Judith Levine, Laura Mansnerus, Erica R. Meiners, R. Noll, Melissa Petro, Carol Queen, Penelope Saunders, Sean Strub, Maurice Tomlinson, Gregory Tomso


"Interdisciplinary in scope and inclusive of activist voices from outside the academy, the book is an essential introduction to a struggle for self-determination and sexual self-assertion that has been occurring behind mainstream social movements’ focus on dignity and respectability.... [A]n urgent, well-argued agenda...." — Ben Miller, Lambda Literary Review

"This is an illuminating, often disturbing book, handling some extremely touchy subjects...." — Perry Brass, Huffington Post

"[A]n ambitious and provocative collection of essays.... The political credentials of many contributors to this volume show that much can be achieved in the face of overwhelming odds, and serve as a model for blending scholarship with civic engagement." — Dan Udy, TLS

"The editors have done a valuable service putting together these 17 rigorous pieces that, collectively, paint a grim picture of the nation’s sexual culture.... It’s a valuable book meant for an academic audience, a useful resource for one’s bookcase to draw upon when considering a truly troubling dimension of sex and contemporary life: the criminalization of sex." — David Rosen, New York Journal of Books

"At a moment when Queer Studies in the United States has turned its attention away from sex to matters considered more pressing, The War on Sex appears as a welcome reminder of the urgent work that remains to be done. . . . A thoroughly researched, expertly edited collection of substantial scholarly contributions . . . With meticulous documentation and persuasive argumentation, the various chapters of The War on Sex combine to tell a powerful story." — Tim Dean, European Journal of American Culture

"The War on Sex ultimately throws down a resounding gauntlet for scholars of sexuality, demanding we attend to. . . emerging twenty-first century regulatory frameworks."  — Whitney Strub, Journal of the History of Sexuality

"This book should be required reading for prosecutors, judges, therapists, social workers, and anyone who cares about criminal justice reform." — William A. Percy Foundation for Social & Historical Studies

"Recent events just keep confirming, all too dismally, that the issues this collection takes up—from sex offender registries and sex trafficking to HIV in public health—link together as a major front of struggle in our time, often far from public view. Questioning some of the narratives of progress that are so widely echoed in the media and popular consciousness, The War on Sex will immediately meet the needs of academics and activists alike." — Michael Warner, author of Publics and Counterpublics

"Containing essays from some of the most insightful scholars and activists working on the front lines, The War on Sex is a vital tool for understanding how the regulation and criminalization of sex relate to our vital struggles in racial, economic, gender, and disability justice. Full of thoughtful, carefully researched essays, The War on Sex will support readers in classrooms and social movements to understand and strategize about the relationships among sex, criminalization, poverty, disability, and contemporary politics. We need this book right now." — Dean Spade, author of Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law


Availability: In stock
Price: $32.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

David M. Halperin is W. H. Auden Distinguished University Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality in the English Department at the University of Michigan and the author, most recently, of How to Be Gay.

Trevor Hoppe is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, and author of Punishing Disease.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword. Thinking Sex and Justice / Trevor Hoppe  ix
Introduction. The War on Sex / David M. Halperin  1
Part I. The Politics of Sex
1. The New Pariahs: Sex, Crime and Punishment in America / Roger N. Lancaster  65
2. Sympathy for the Devil: Why Progressives Haven't Helped the Sex Offender, Why They Should, and How They Can / Judith Levine  126
3, Queer Disavowel: "Controversial Crimes" and Building Abolition / Owen Daniel-McCarter, Erica R. Meiners, and R Noll  174
4. A New Iron Closet: Failing to Extend the Spirit of Lawrence v. Texas to Prison and Prisoners / J. Wallace Borchert  191
5. Seeing the Sex and Justice Landscape through the Vatican's Eyes: The War on Gender and the Seamless Garmet of Sexual Rights / Mary Anne Case  211
Part II. The Invention of the Sex Offender
6. Sex Panic, Psychiatry, and the Expansion ofthe Carceral State / Regina Kunzel 229
7. The Creation of the Modern Sex Offender / Scott de Orio  247
8. For What They Might Do: A Sex Offender Exception to the Constitution / Laura Mansnerus  268
Part III. Sex Work and the  Trouble with Trafficking
9. The "Hooker Teacher" Tell All / Melissa Petro  291
10. Carceral Politics as Gender Justice? The "Traffic in Women" and Neoliberal Circuits of Crime, Sex, and Rights / Elizabeth Bernstein  297
11. California's Proposition 35 and the Trouble with Trafficking / Carol Queen and Penelope Saunders  323
Part IV. Making HIV a Crime
12. HIV: Prosecution or Prevention? HIV is Not a Crime / Sean Strub  347
13. HIV Monsters: Gay Men, Criminal Law, and the New Political Economy of HIV / Gregory Tomso  353
14. HIV Care as Social Rehabilitation: Medical Governance, the AIDS Surveillance Industry, and Therapeutic Citizenship Neoliberal Taiwan / Hans Tao-Ming Huang   378
Part V. Resistance
15. The New War on Sex: A Report from the Global Front Lines/ Maurice Tomlinson  409
16. Building a Movement for Justice: Doe v. Jindal and the Campaign Against Louisiana's Crime Against Nature Statute / Alexis Agathocleous  429
17. Bringing Sex to the Table of Justice / Amber Hollibaugh  454
Afterword. How You Can Get Involved / Trevor Hoppe  461
Contributors  465
Index  469
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Finalist, 2017 Lambda Literary Award in LGBTQ Studies

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6367-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6351-4
Publicity material