cover image Sexed Up: How Society Sexualizes Us, and How We Can Fight Back

Sexed Up: How Society Sexualizes Us, and How We Can Fight Back

Julia Serano. Seal, $30 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5416-7480-6

Biologist and transgender activist Serano (99 Erics) explores in this lucid account the dangers of nonconsensual sexualization, or “when an individual is reduced to their sexual body or behaviors rather than viewed as a whole person.” Attitudes that feed sexualization, according to Serano, include the “two filing cabinet” mindset, in which people categorize others as male or female and ignore cues that challenge that categorization, and the “unmarked/marked” mindset, in which variations from the “default status” attract unwanted attention and foster assumptions that the person has an agenda. Serano also addresses the intersections between sexualization and racism; reflects on her experiences of society’s gendered expectations as a bisexual trans woman; and discusses the “potential pitfalls” of destigmatizing trans people, including “ostensibly sex-positive portrayals of sexual diversity [that] sensationalize our supposedly taboo or transgressive nature.” Her advice for combatting sexualization includes treating others “as distinct individuals with desires of their own” and “moving away from judging sex and sexuality in terms of good versus bad.” Serano succeeds in explicating a wide range of complex ideas about gender, sexuality, and identity, and offers incisive new frameworks for reckoning with some of the most discussed issues in contemporary feminism and queer culture. The result is a nuanced and approachable guide to “making sex more equitable.” (May)