Carole Pateman's The Sexual Contract

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Carole Patemen’s The Sexual Contract digs deep into contract theory and its downfalls, especially focusing on the issues at hand in the social, employment, marriage, prostitution and surrogate contracts. Through a feminist perspective, Pateman revisits and analyses the views of the classic contract theorists Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, as well as Robert Filmer and Freud and how their views on sex greatly effected the foundations of contract theory. To Pateman, “the original contract is a sexual-social contract.” (1) Through The Sexual Contract Pateman attempts to unmask the sexual contract from hiding and show the effect it has on many of the contracts we take part in today. The Sexual Contract also acts as a critique towards feminists and…show more content…
Classic social contract theory claims that “individuals are naturally free and equal to each other.” (39) However, as Pateman points out, to all of the social contract theorists (excluding Hobbes) the term ‘individual’ actually only refers to one sex, men. By discussing the irony of the classic social contract theorists’ views of a neutral-sex ‘individual’ and the fact that “the classic pictures of the state of nature take[s] into account that human beings are sexually differentiated,” (41) Pateman is able to lay down the foundations in order to discuss the ‘individual’ is merely a political fiction and that sexual-differentiation is essential to the sexual contract. To the classic theorists, “natural capacities and attributes were sexually differentiated.” (42) Men held the natural capacities and attributes that enabled them to succeed in ‘civil society’ and women’s natural capacities and attributes were cause (especially to Rousseau) to keep them out of ‘civil society’ and subjugated to men in the home. Hobbes is the only classic theorist who includes women as ‘equals’ in his state of nature. However, like every other classic contract theorists, in the end, women end up subordinated to men and for the most part are left out of the transition to ‘civil society.’ Every ‘individual’, as Locke claims has a “Property in his own Person.” (55) As Pateman…show more content…
Men represent their wives and families in the public sphere. To Locke, “the subjection of women (wives) to men (husbands) is not an example of political domination and subordination.” (53) This is because no man has the power of life and death over his wife or anyone else. (53) To Rousseau, “civil order depends on the right of husbands over their wives.” (53) The natural attributes of women cause them to live without reason, to rely solely on their emotions and desires, because of this, women should not and cannot be allowed in ‘civil society’ as with their inclusion comes its downfall. Through the subjugation of women to men, the dichotomy of natural/civil, master/slave, and employee/employer is shown. ‘Civil’ society cannot be understood without the contrast of the ‘private’ sphere.
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