A Political Theory of Sex Post-#MeToo

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 Friday 22 June 2018 at 14:30 – Sala degli Stemmi, Villa Salviati, EUI

Speake: Heidi Matthews (Osgoode Hall Law School, York University)

ABSTRACT: Over the last 6 months, the so-called #MeToo ‘movement’ has deplatformed countless celebrity men accused of various forms of ‘sexual misconduct,’ ranging from forcible rape to bad date behaviour. For the first time in history, the mainstream media is now preoccupied with the question of what sorts of sex should be socially and legally promoted. This discourse, however, has been dominated by a set of sexually conservative feminist voices. Largely influenced by the second wave feminism of Catherine MacKinnon et al., these feminists are calling for a variety of policy reforms that, I argue, promote regressive attitudes about sex. Key among these suggested reforms are calls to amend sexual assault laws to include an affirmative consent standard. This punitive posture, I suggest, places sex itself firmly in the realm of behaviour considered to be threatening to the body politik. Rather than thinking about sex as always already a site of danger, we should examine how and under what social and material conditions sex can actually be politically productive. As a site of taboo and transgression, sex inflects all areas of public life, challenging the parameters of socially valuable behaviour. Rather than seeking to discipline and cabin sex within ever more restrictive and punitive structures, in the #MeToo moment we should be interrogating the productive power of sex, asking what it can tell us about the good life and how it can be achieved.

Professor Matthews is an associate professor at Osgoode Hall law school at York University. She researches and teaches in the areas of international criminal law, the law of war, international legal history and political theory. Her work theorizes contemporary shifts in the practice and discourse of the global legal regulation of political violence, with particular attention to history and gender, as well as political, critical and aesthetic theory. Prior to joining Osgoode, Professor Matthews held a British Academy Newton International Fellowship at the SOAS School of Law, University of London. She served as a law clerk to the judges of the Appeals Chamber at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and as an intern at the Immediate Office of the Prosecutor at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Professor Matthews’ current projects include a critical legal evaluation of American, Canadian and British counterinsurgency policy and practice, a reevaluation of the role of international criminal law during the Cold War, and an intellectual and political history of the concept of military necessity in international law. She is also working on a research and documentary film project that examines narratives of Allied sexual violence perpetrated against German women at the end of World War II. Professor Matthews is active in several international research networks, including the Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law and Cold War International Law projects.

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