Theorizing Yes: An Essay on Feminism, Law and Desire

Posted: 4 Apr 2001


In this Essay, Professor Franke observes that, unlike feminists from other disciplines, feminist legal theorists have neglected to formulate a positive theory of female sexuality. Instead, discussions of female sexuality have been framed as either a matter of dependency or danger. Professor Franke begins her challenge to this scheme by asking why legal feminism has accepted unquestionably the fact that most women reproduce in their lifetimes. Why have not social forces that incentivize motherhood - a dynamic she terms repronormativity - been exposed to as exacting a feminist critique as have heteronormative forces that normalize heterosexuality? Furthermore, she continues by noting that when feminist legal theory renders sex as dangerous, such analysis risks advancing the view that the only acceptable answer to any sexual proposition is "no". Professor Franke cautions that the willingness of most legal feminists to maternalize uncritically the female subject or to conceptualize sex as the inevitable site of danger for women, effectively marginalizes, if not erases, the possibility of non-reproductive female sexual desire and pleasure.

Suggested Citation

Franke, Katherine M., Theorizing Yes: An Essay on Feminism, Law and Desire. Columbia Law Review, Vol. 101. Available at SSRN:

Katherine M. Franke (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States
(212) 854-0061 (Phone)
(212) 854-7946 (Fax)


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