The New Cold War? ‘Sexual Democracy' Vs. ‘Sexual Sovereignty'

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Maxim KUPOVYKH, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Western “culture wars” have recently acquired a distinctively global dimension.  The issues of gender equality, reproductive and LGBT rights divide nowadays not only politicians, activists and religious leaders but national governments, too.  The new Cold War-style lines of contention are being drawn in terms of the rhetorical oppositions between “sexual democracy” (SDem) and “sexual sovereignty” (SSov).

Based on analyzing a variety of printed media and Internet resources, this paper examines relevant public debates within global and national (esp. Russian and Dutch) contexts. Conceptually, I challenge the habitual binary framing of these debates in terms of the West vs. the rest, or modernity vs. tradition.  Instead, I argue that, despite being locally embedded and divergent on a number of important accounts, the discourses and the policies of SDem and SSov converge on instrumentalizing gender and sexuality as key markers of national identity and as tools for constructing European and Russian “others”: intolerant “Orientals” (Muslim immigrants or “Putin’s Russia”) or “amoral permissive-liberal internationalists.” These tendencies are interwoven with further convergent trends, e.g. moralizing citizenship and inventing traditions, i.e. apparently eternal “traditions of tolerance” in Western countries and, in the Russian case, similarly perennial national adherence to “traditional family values.” In both cases, the rhetoric of the rights (or rejection thereof) of women, children and LGBT serves to “imagine” the homogeneous national (e.g. Dutch or Russian) and regional (European) spaces and thus symbolically ameliorate the rising sense of insecurity, which is associated with the decline of the European welfare state, the EU crisis, perceived “immigrant threat,” and the accelerating political, ethnic and demographic instability in Russia.