Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Sex-positive feminism

Jennie O’Hara reviews Meat Market: Female Flesh under Capitalism, by Laurie Penny

November 29, 2011
2 min read

Recent campaigns such as SlutWalk suggest a new feminism is on the rise, one that emphasises fighting for women’s rights to have control over their own bodies through wearing whatever they want and asserting that rape is never the fault of the survivor. In her insightful and thought-provoking book, Laurie Penny provides the ideal theoretical backdrop for this new feminism to frame its anger by outlining how capitalism has created a trade in female flesh, which she argues has led to fear and oppression of women’s bodies.

Penny highlights how the economy is dependent upon women’s compliance and subservience; and how, in order to avoid revolt, various forces work to ensure women are made docile. She argues that by understanding how our bodies are controlled and manipulated in and by markets, women can begin to fight back.

The book includes many of Penny’s own experiences feeling like a piece of meat in the trade of female flesh. The personal truly is political as she describes her own battle with anorexia and how she has come to no longer fear her body or the space she takes up in an attempt to empower other young women to reclaim space for positive female flesh.

The book succinctly outlines the main contentious arguments in contemporary British feminism – including trans inclusion and sex work – with a polite explanation and well-researched rebuttals of points on both sides of the argument. Penny likens what she sees as the anti-sex rhetoric of many feminists to that of right-wing moral crusaders. Her sex-positive attitude and calls for women to engage in an ‘abundance of real sex’ certainly makes for refreshing reading.

Although not intended as an introductory text to feminism, Meat Market serves as such. This is not because it is immediately accessible but because it provides a comprehensive analysis of the numerous ways women’s bodies are controlled and modified by the state, the media, capitalist forces, the sex industry – and other women.


Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.

Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani

Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week

A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes

Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.

Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu

Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns