The State and sexual politics

With varied empirical and theoretical references, the articles in this issue of Sexuality Health and Society bring significant contributions to a reflection on contemporary sexual politics in Latin America.

This is most evident in the papers by Moraes & Ribeiro, Nardi & Quartiero, and Nieto Olivar, which focus on the limits and vicissitudes faced by important state projects. In them, human rights language is mobilized to protect not only certain subjects, but sexuality (and sexual pleasure) itself, conceived as a dimension of human experience deserving recognition and respect. All three studies unveil scenes of utmost currency: men ‘authors of violence against women’ compulsorily taking part in ‘reflection groups’ at a Rio de Janeiro court installed by the piece of legislation known as Maria da Penha Act; activist women prostitutes from different Latin American countries debating about ways to confront stigma; gay, lesbian and travesti militants discussing “sexual diversity” with public school teachers involved in a project funded by the Ministry of Education as part of the Brasil without Homofobia Plan. These papers address dilemmas crucial to an affirmation of sexual rights as human rights, and the winding path taken by actions proposed to implant them.

Grounded on research in Southeastern Colombia, Fernando Urrea & Jorge Moncayo’s article discusses the differential acquisition of attitudes––such as the value of women’s sexual pleasure––along race, class and sexual orientation lines. Such attitudes, at the base of new sexual policy, seem difficult to implement in cases where sexual pleasure is associated to economic interest, as sex worker activist Gabriela Leite cautions in Nieto Olivar’s text. The complex relations between sex and money are also addressed by Fernando Pocahy. In a social psychology perspective, by means of a ‘cartographic’ approach to fieldwork at a gay bar in Porto Alegre, his article discusses the way gender, age and monetized relations are interwoven in the production of socially (un)intelligible subjects.

Closing this issue, Cecilia Rustoyburu’s historical analysis on the discourse of bio typology in Argentina during the 1930s offers a different angle for the observation of contemporary sexual politics. The article revisits the context of formation of the hetero normative landscape that new social movements, legal and institutional grammar seek to undo.

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