General Lecture: “Sex in the Age of Fordism: The Standardization of Sexual Objects” | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh
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General Lecture: “Sex in the Age of Fordism: The Standardization of Sexual Objects”

October 31, 2017 - 2:30pm - 4:00pm
Speaker/Participants: 
Benjamin Kahan (Louisiana SU)

Benjamin Kahan’s “Sex in the Age of Fordism: The Standardization of Sexual Objects” theorizes an etiological rather than an epistemological approach to the history of sexuality. Reading Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919), this paper explores how industrialization functions as a sexual etiology. Taking a hint from scholars like John D’Emilio and Henry Abelove who understand economic forces to have an enormous impact on sexual life, this paper examines industrialization’s transformation not just of the ways that we produce objects, but also how it is imagined to invent sexual objects. More specifically, I consider how Fordism was understood by Antonio Gramsci and Sherwood Anderson to standardize sexual object-choice in order to create the hegemonic system of sexual orientation dominant in America and much of Europe. This essay attends to the ways in Winesburg, Ohio both locates consumer and sexual objects at the center of modern fields of desire and imagines the inhabitants of the small Ohio town to enact non-industrialized and non-standardized sexual pleasures. 

Benjamin Kahan is an Associate Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at Louisiana State University. He has held postdoctoral fellowships at Washington University in St. Louis, Emory University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Sydney, the National Humanities Center, and the Reed Foundation. He is the author of Celibacies: American Modernism and Sexual Life (Duke, 2013) and the editor of Heinrich Kaan’s “Psychopathia Sexualis” (1844): A Classic Text in the History of Sexuality (Cornell, 2016). His book Sexual Etiologies and the Great Paradigm Shift is currently under advance contract with University of Chicago Press.

 

 

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