Cosmopolitan SexualitiesHope and the Humanist Imagination
Cosmopolitan Sexualities
Hope and the Humanist Imagination

How are we to live with the wide varieties of sexuality and gender found across the rapidly changing global order? Whilst some countries have legislated in favour of same-sex marriage and the United Nations makes declarations about gender and sexual equality, many countries across the world employ punitive responses to such differences. In this compelling and original study, Ken Plummer argues the need for a practical utopian project of hope that he calls ‘cosmopolitan sexualities’. He asks: how can we connect our differences with collective values, our uniqueness with multiple group belonging, our sexual and gendered individualities with a broader common humanity? Showing how a foundation for this new ethics, politics and imagination are evolving across the world, he discusses the many possible pitfalls being encountered. He highlights the complexity of sexual and gender cultures, the ubiquity of human conflict, the difficulties of dialogue and the problems with finding any common ground for our humanity.

<i>Cosmopolitan Sexualities</i> takes a bold critical humanist view and argues the need for positive norms to guide us into the future. Highlighting the vulnerability of the human being, Plummer goes in search of historically grounded and potentially global human values like empathy and sympathy, care and kindness, dignity and rights, human flourishing and social justice. These harbour visions of what is acceptable and unacceptable in the sexual and intimate life. Clearly written, the book speaks to important issues of our time and will interest all those who are struggling to finding ways to live together well in spite of our different genders and sexualities.

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  • July 2015
  • 248 pages
  • 145 x 224 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $72.75
  • 9780745670997
  • Paperback $26.00
  • 9780745671000
  • Acrobat Ebook Reader $20.99
  • 9780745695082
Table of Contents

Boxes x

Website xi

Abbreviations xii

Introduction 1

A troubled world 3

A tale to tell 5

An infinity of lists 8

Part One: Humanism and the Making of Cosmopolitan Sexualities 11

1 Plural Sexualities: Making Valued Human Lives 13

Plural lives 14

Contingency and the varieties of sexual experience 16

Critical humanism 20

Humanist troubles 22

Vulnerability and the dignity of the self 26

Plural values, valued lives 29

Search for common humanities 30

A world ethics for critical humanism? 32

Valued sexual lives 36

2 Transformational Sexualities: Making Twenty-First-Century Sexual Lives 39

Transformational sexualities 40

Reproductive sexualities, techno sexualities 44

Mediated sexualities 45

Electronic sexualities 47

Familial sexualities 50

Gendered sexualities 52

Violent sexualities 53

Post-honour sexualities 54

Secular, sacred and fundamentalist sexualities 56

Commodified sexualities 58

Urban sexualities and their assemblages 61

AIDS and sexualities 63

Divided sexualities, pauperized sexualities 64

Individualized, reflective sexualities 65

Migrating, diasporic and hybrid sexualities 67

Global sexualities/mobile sexualities 68

Conclusion: Making sexual politics 69

3 Cosmopolitan Sexualities: Living With Different Lives 71

On cosmopolitanism 72

Constructing cosmopolitan sexualities in a global arena 74

Troubles ahead: the contradictions and limits of cosmopolitanism 88

The (very) long walk to cosmopolitan sexualities 101

Part Two: Inclusive Sexualities: Nudging Towards a Better World 103

4 Cultural Sexualities: Cultivating Awareness of Complexity 105

Global sexualities and research 107

World cultures and macro sexualities 110

Impure cultures and subterranean sexualities 116

Local cultures and micro sexualities 123

Conclusion: complex cultures 130

5 Contested Sexualities: Inventing Enemies, Making Boundaries 131

Scaling the battlegrounds 133

Divisive sexualities, agonistic politics 135

The fault line of contested sexualities 141

On boundaries, belonging and the vulnerabilities of normativity 143

Normative sexualities 145

Vulnerable sexualities 150

Looking ahead 153

6 Communicative Sexualities: On the Hope and Empathy for a Common Global Humanity 155

Empathic sexualities 156

Narrative sexualities 161

Dialogic sexualities 164

Ethical sexualities 167

Democratic sexualities 175

Bleak sexualities 179

Hopeful sexualities 182

The little grounded everyday ‘utopian’ processes of global hope 183

In the end 187

Epilogue: Contingent Sexualities – Dancing into the Sexual Labyrinth 190

Personal tales 193

Textual tales 194

Research tales 196

Troubled tales 198

Mobile tales 200

Notes 202

References 232

Index: 100 Samples of Multiple Sexualities 268

Index: General 270

About the Author
Ken Plummer is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex. Amongst his key books are Sexual Stigma (1975), The Making of the Modern Homosexual (1981), Telling Sexual Stories (1995), Documents of Life (2001), Intimate Citizenship (2003) and Sociology: The Basics (2010). He was the founder editor of Sexualities.
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"Plummer has given us a new sexology for our age… Warning us not to take our stereotypes for granted, he takes us through sexualities in China, in Africa and in Middle Eastern societies, and organises sexualities into global zones, regional discrepancies and local eruptions."
Times Higher Education

"Ken Plummer's new work on sexualities is a carefully constructed book designed to captivate students and scholars with an interest in sexuality studies...a thoroughly enjoyable read which leaves the reader with a comprehensive knowledge of sexualities and a hopeful perspective for a humanistic world." 
James Pickles, Network Review 

"This is a book of deep knowledge and passionate commitment. It is the culmination of a lifetime’s work on the sociology, culture and politics of sexuality, and is suffused with a critical humanism that offers a guide for the perplexed troubled by our contemporary sexual labyrinth. It is a landmark of sexual scholarship."
Jeffrey Weeks, London South Bank University

"Ken Plummer helped define the field of sexuality studies, and now he pushes well beyond its boundaries, taking on big questions of social theory. Cosmopolitan Sexualities uses the lens of sexuality studies to grapple with debates about belonging and difference in our rapidly globalizing world. Plummer has read absolutely everything, and in this book he offers a comprehensive, often dazzling road map of the myriad changes which are simultaneously remaking intimate life and macro worlds, and what they tell us about what it means to be human."
Arlene Stein, Rutgers University
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