Cornell University

This is a past event. Its details are archived for historical purposes.

The contact information may no longer be valid.

Please visit our current events listings to look for similar events by title, location, or venue.

The Feminist Sex Wars: A Retrospective by Gayle Rubin

Wednesday, April 27, 2022 at 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Kroch Library, 2B48
Olin Library, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

Gayle S. Rubin, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, is a pioneering theorist and activist in feminist, LGBT, queer, and sexuality studies who has been shaping the scholarly discourse about the politics of sex for five decades.  In the opening lecture for the Library's exhibition "Radical Desire: Making On Our Backs Magazine," she will explore the 1980s feminist sex wars in which On Our Backs played a catalytic and transformative role. After the lecture and discussion, there will be an opportunity to explore the exhibition in Hirschland Gallery. Rubin's signed portrait by Honey Lee Cottrell is in the gallery.

This event is part of the Radical Desire Symposium celebrating both the Library's exhibition and the 30th and 50th anniversaries of Cornell's LGBT Studies and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies programs. Related event: Making a lesbian sex magazine in the age of feminist sex wars, April 28.

Rubin first rose to prominence in 1975 with the publication of “The Traffic in Women,” an essay that had a galvanizing effect on feminist thinking and theory. In another landmark piece, “Thinking Sex,” she examined how certain sexual behaviors are constructed as moral or natural, and others as unnatural. That essay became one of queer theory’s foundational texts. Rubin’s oeuvre features equally insightful writing on subjects such as lesbian history, the feminist sex wars, the politics of sadomasochism, crusades against prostitution and pornography, and the historical development of sexual knowledge. Her field-founding essays have been collected in the celebrated volume Deviations (Duke University Press, 2011).

“It is rare to find an intellectual who founded an entire field of sexuality studies, whose theoretical contributions have been so far-reaching, and who continues to make rich, surprising, and singular interventions. These are the essays that riveted generations and claim our attention time and again. Gayle S. Rubin gives us the material life of sexual categories, lucid and careful argumentation, extraordinary and unprecedented archives. This brilliant collection is a gift for anyone who wants to follow the formidable trajectory of the most exacting and influential intellectual of sexuality studies.” — Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor, Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley

Co-sponsored by Cornell's Public History Initiative, FGSS, LGBT Studies.

Attendees in person should come early to get a seat. This event will be in a classroom setting. Please check Cornell University's official website for the latest campus public health guidance:

To attend the event virtually, register in advance at the link on the right.

Dial-In Information

Google Calendar iCal Outlook
Event Type



Kroch Library, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Studies, History, Cornell University Library

University Themes

Diversity, Public Engagement, Research


fgsscal, lgbtstudiescal, CUHistory



Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Brenda J. Marston

Contact Phone



Gayle S. Rubin

Speaker Affiliation

University of Michigan

Open To


Recent Activity

You're not going yet!

This event requires registration.