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The study of sexuality is a vital area of contemporary social theory. During the course of the twentieth century, in Western society, thinking on sexuality shifted from a conception of sex as a biological, essential, and fixed aspect of human “nature” to theorizations of sexuality as a social construct, shaped and regulated through cultural discourses and other social formations.

In large part, this shift was a direct result of feminist challenges to a binary understanding of gender that traditionally rested on fixed, mutually opposed categories of “male” and “female.” A number of feminist scholars pointed to the lack of clear-cut biological differences between the two sexes; and increasingly, gender was theorized to be an ideological enterprise rather than a natural fact. The French feminist Simone de ...

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