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This review is taken from PN Review 41, Volume 11 Number 3, January - February 1985.

PLEASURE, GENDER, WRITING Formations of Pleasure, edited by Formations Editorial Board (Routledge & Kegan Paul) £5.95 pb.
On Gender and Writing, edited by Michelene Wandor (Pandora Press) £3.95 pb.

The 'New Left' of the 1960s returned pleasure - especially sexual pleasure - to the radical/revolutionary agenda. But its notion of pleasure was naive: whatever turns you on. As 'New Left' hedonism was assimilated or marginalized, as post-structuralist perspectives - those of Lacan, of Foucault, of the later Barthes - became widely disseminated, as feminism (partly through its convergence with such perspectives) grew more theoretically sophisticated, 'pleasure' began to seem a much more complex matter. Formations of Pleasure - a collection of essays much influenced by post-structuralism and feminism - sets out to explore some of the complexities.

Pleasure is still seen as potentially revolutionary. As Fredric Jameson puts it: 'the right to a specific pleasure, to a specific enjoyment of the potentialities of the material body . . . must always in one way or another also be able to stand as a figure for the transformation of social relations as a whole.' But to claim the right to certain pleasures may be to endorse some existing, and oppressive, social relations. This has become especially evident with respect to the male claim to sexual pleasure from women: Frank Mort points out that the 'development of a feminist sexual politics has involved the most thoroughgoing interrogation of . . . liberationist notions of sexual pleasure'. In current feminist perspectives, the 'sexual revolution' of the 1960s can be seen, to some degree, as an extension, and explicit justification, of male predatory attitudes to women. To the old armoury ...


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