BOOK REVIEW: The Politics of Lust

By Annamarya Scaccia (, 2005)

Title: The Politics of Lust
Author: John Ince
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publish Date: 2003/2005
Pages: 335
Genres:Political Studies

“Our culture appears to be enthusiastic about sex.”

A statement that is true as defined by the media and social situations, sex is a touchy subject and everyone is obsessed with it. So, what makes John Ince’s book The Politics of Lusta noteworthy study on the politics of sex as integrated in society? The comprehensive and detailed research, as well as the originality and liberalism that he puts into it, is of a quite fascinating nature. The Politics of Lust stirs up topics that often see nothing more than the darkness of an abandoned building and within the topics he chose to write about, he is well-studied. Ince’s observations of human interaction and sexual deviance are thorough, and although at times he can seem biased, Ince remains reserved in his opinions.

In The Politics of Lust, Ince discusses topics such “fig-leafing” (the concealment of one’s genitals) and “nasty sex” (any type of sexual interaction that causes trauma to the any or all participants, i.e. rape, sexual assault). In these discussions, he writes in reference to the negative effects that “nasty sex” and “fig-leafing” can cause not only to those engaged in such activities, but generations thereafter. Ince argues that those who have experienced negative feelings about sex or who have negative ideas about sex will pass it down to their children. He uses the example of a child flipping through the pages of aNational Geographic magazine, who had come across an article accompanied by a picture of a woman’s breasts. This picture was meant to depict the cultural and tribal practices of an African tribe; however, the mother snatched the magazine out of the child’s hand, claiming that looking at the seemingly educational picture is “wrong.”

This, in turn, will leave a mark on the child, believing it is wrong to look at breasts, even if it is for educational purposes. Although this is one of the many examples Ince gives to back his theories, it is the underlining theme of the book. The only reason, Ince seems to say, that society has poor views about sex is because they have been passed on generation to generation.

Ince also delves into the politics of sex education in the United States, as compared to other countries, and the contradiction of the media concerning sexual practice. According to Ince, what is more harmful than acting out sexual feelings is being ignorant about what you are doing. He advises that parents should allow their children to explore and to help them be safe and smart about it. To Ince, sexual discovery is a large part of sexual health, and in order to know what you enjoy you must explore. As with the current sex education system, this is not possible. Instead, children are taught how to stay celibate until marriage and negative views about sexuality is conveyed. In the book, Ince presents a study that shows more than half of Americans do not know the names of their genitalia or sex organs. Ince claims, in a matter-of-fact way, that because of “abstinence” teaching in school, the percentage of teenage pregnancy, as well as transmitting of STD’s, will begin to rise. Through facts and sheer logic, Ince proves his point in a clear, concise matter, and will stir up thoughts in readers as to how we can let this happen in our schools.

The media also plays a large role in sexual negativity. In The Politics of Lust, Ince presents a milieu of arguments that can neither be controlled nor ignored. But underneath the mountain of evidence concerning the media and its attack on sexuality, Ince is confused, bewildered by the idea that the media can show scenes of violence, yet will become offended over a picture of a vagina.

“One Spanish language paper [in Mexico] in a line of many at a newsstand drew my attention because the front page had a large photo of a mutilated body of a teenage drug dealer…I was amazed at the sight of a much smaller picture on the same page of an unusual protest by striking street cleaners: they were naked,” he writes. “When I looked carefully at the photo I observed that the crotch region of each of the protestors had been obscured behind a censorship bar…The paper exposed the images of a mutilated body of a boy, but not images of healthy genitals.” To Ince, this is more than confusing; it is disturbing. How can anyone show the disfigured body of a teenage boy, yet cover up pictures of “healthy genitals?” Ince explores the media’s reasoning, explaining there is some belief that “genitalia are immoral and cleansing the public of this images helps keep character.” Not only does this go against the Code of Ethics of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, but it is also imposing one’s moral upbringing onto others who do not share the same views.

Ince does a splendid job with The Politics of Lust and there is much to learn from his arguments and studies. Even if one does not agree with his opinions, this book is a useful tool in terms of sex education. Because, as we all know, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


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