Performing Sex

The Making and Unmaking of Women's Erotic Lives

By Breanne Fahs

Subjects: Women's Studies, Feminist, Psychology Of Women
Paperback : 9781438437828, 376 pages, November 2011
Hardcover : 9781438437811, 376 pages, November 2011

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Table of contents

1. Getting, Giving, Faking, Having: Orgasm and the Performance of Pleasure
2. Compulsory Bisexuality? The Challenges of Modern Sexual Fluidity
3. The Rise of Viagra for Women: How Sexual Pharmaceuticals Medi(c)ate Desire
4. On the Many Joys of Sex: Pleasure, Love, and the Gendered Body
5. The Culture of Domination: Sexual Violence, Objectification, and Access
6. Imagery and Imagination: Pornography and Sexual Fantasy in Everyday Life
1. Participant Demographic Information
2. Sampling Information
3. Interview Protocol

A candid and provocative critique of women’s sexual liberation in America.


Silver Medalist, 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the Women's Issues category
Honorable Mention, 2011 ForeWord Book of the Year in the Women's Issues Category

Although conventional wisdom holds that women in the United States today are more sexually liberated than ever before, a number of startling statistics call into question this perceived victory: over half of all women report having faked orgasms; 45 percent of women find rape fantasies erotic; a growing number of women perform same-sex eroticism for the viewing benefit of men; and recent clinical studies label 40 percent of women as "sexually dysfunctional. " Caught between postsexual revolution celebrations of progress and alarmingly regressive new modes of disempowerment, the forty women interviewed in Performing Sex offer a candid and provocative portrait of "liberated" sex in America. Through this nuanced and complex study, Breanne Fahs demonstrates that despite the constant cooptation of the terms of sexual freedom, women's sexual subjectivities—and the ways they continually grapple with shifting definitions of liberation—represent provocative spaces for critical inquiry and personal discovery, ultimately generating novel ways of imagining and reimagining power, pleasure, and resistance.

Breanne Fahs is Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University and a practicing clinical psychologist specializing in couples work, sexuality, gender identity, and trauma recovery.


"Fahs provides striking evidence that contemporary sexual liberation is sexual performance that disempowers women with the name of empowerment … Connecting the data from … interviews to her clinical experience and current relevant scholarship, the author challenges readers to ask if liberation alone is enough … Fahs examines each case in detail with very accessible language and elaboration … Highly recommended. " — CHOICE

"Fahs has the opportunity here to shape what should become a burgeoning subfield in gender and sexuality studies—the study of sexual subjectivities. This straddles social psychology, women's studies, and sociology and explores the concept that social influences and forces effect how people come to understand themselves on an individual or psychological level. " — Rebecca F. Plante, coeditor of Doing Gender Diversity: Readings in Theory and Real-World Experience