Sexuality pp 198-226 | Cite as

Transgressive and coercive sex

  • Chess Denman


Western society regulates sexuality by making some sexual behaviour illegal and by sanctioning other sexual behaviours with social disapproval. Some prohibitions seem rational — for example, rape. Other prohibitions seem inexplicable — for example, sexual, sadomasochistic acts involving cutting or harming other people’s penises, which are illegal both for the person who does the cutting and, intriguingly, for the person who consents to it (Thompson 1994). Satz (1990) points out that the state’s interference in sexual behaviour is far greater than is warranted by its interest in avoiding personal harm or promoting social benefit. Quasi-legal control has been exercised by medicalising some sexual activity under the term ‘perversion’ or a more modern synonym. This chapter deals with both legally and medically proscribed sex. It introduces two terms to describe sexual activity: transgressive sex and coercive sex. Transgressive sex is sexual activity which attracts social disapproval or legal sanction. Coercive sex involves activities in which one party has not consented. It is argued that this categorisation divides sex more rationally than either medical or legal categorisations.


Sexual Preference Sexual Harassment Sexual Arousal Sexual Offender Premature Ejaculation 
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Copyright information

© Dr Chess Denman MBBS MRC Psych 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chess Denman

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