Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter reviews The Sexual Contract, a work by Carole Pateman that identifies masculinized forms of domination and assumptions of male sex-right (the “sexual contract”) embodied in the concept of “contract” generally and specific to the classic social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Beginning with the “patriarchal confusions” that Pateman exposes in contemporary political and feminist theoretic interpretations of contract theory, the chapter then turns to Pateman’s alternative feminist “storytelling” approach to social contract theory. In particular it examines the merits of Pateman’s subversive critique of contractual relations, political right, and the subjection of women as presented through her threefold story of the “original,” “social,” and “sexual” contracts. Following an assessment of feminist receptions of Pateman’s critique of contract theory, the chapter also explores the interpretive implications of her search for a “logic” embedded in these stories and within the classic social contract texts generally. Finally, it considers the book’s fortunes in relation to new modes and disciplines of identity knowledges, along with some criticisms of the work from contemporary gender, sexuality, and queer studies.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Classics in Contemporary Political Theory
EditorsJacob T Levy
StatePublished - 2016


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