Sex Wars as Proxy Wars

Critical Analysis of Law. Vol. 6 (2019)

U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-18

34 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2019 Last revised: 2 Aug 2019

See all articles by Aya Gruber

Aya Gruber

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: May 28, 2019


The clash between feminists and queer theorists over the meaning of sex — danger versus pleasure — is well-trodden academic territory. Less discussed is what the theories have in common. There is an important presumption uniting many feminist and queer accounts of sexuality: sex, relative to all other human activities, is something of great, or grave, importance. The theories reflect Gayle Rubin’s postulation that “everything pertaining to sex has been a ‘special case’ in our culture.” In the #MeToo era, we can see all too clearly how sex has an outsized influence in public debate. Raging against sexual harm has become the preferred weapon of those attacking heterogenous power differentials. Focusing on sex, advocates wage proxy wars for other values, from equality in professor-grad student relationships to gender diversity on corporate boards. However, when we have our sex blinders on, it is difficult to seek remedies to — or even see — the problems for which sexual harm stood in as a proxy. In this essay, I make the case that combining queer-theoretical methods with a distinctly sex-indifferent stance brings a useful perspective to some of the thornier aspects of the contemporary debate over sex regulation.

Keywords: Feminism, Queer Theory, Sex Positive, Sex Wars, MeToo, Sexual Assault, Dominance Feminism, Rape, Kavanaugh, Title IX, Campus Rape

JEL Classification: K14, K19, K42

Suggested Citation

Gruber, Aya, Sex Wars as Proxy Wars (May 28, 2019). Critical Analysis of Law. Vol. 6 (2019), U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-18, Available at SSRN:

Aya Gruber (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
(303) 492-8441 (Phone)


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics