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Transformation Of Intimacy Essay, Research Paper

The Transformation of Intimacy

How does ’sexuality’ come into being, and what connections does it have with the changes that have affected personal life on a more general plane? In answering these questions, Anthony Giddens disputes many of the interpretations of the role of sexuality in our culture. The emergence of what he calls plastic sexuality, which is sexuality freed from its original relation of reproduction, is analyzed in terms of the long-term development of the modern social order and social influences of the last few decades. Giddens argues that the transformation of intimacy, in which women have played the major part, holds out the possibility of a society that is very traditional. “This book will appeal to a large general audience as well as being essential reading for those students in sociology and theory.”(Manis 1)

Giddens feels that the changes that have taken place in the matter of intimacy, definitely have a chance in our society, but much of it is yet to be realized. “Giddens argues that Foucault, by limiting his discussion of modern sexuality, cannot adequately account for changes that have occurred over the past century and, most notably, in the last few decades.”(Gordon 2) He believes that the root of these changes are the spread of romantic love and contraception. They have created a ‘plastic sexuality, which he describes as a sexuality split from traditional sexuality, to many changes not only in female heterosexual behavior but in lesbian and gay behavior as well.

Giddens describes our modern society as a “risk society” with three important trends affecting it: globalization, detraditionalization, and social reflexivity. Globalization is how the boundaries of our world are becoming less and less noticeable, which makes for a more diverse and multicultural population. Traditions in our society are also becoming non traditional, in that people no longer do things because they have “always been done that way,” which gives people more freedom of choice to live their lives as they want. Social reflexivity allows people to write their own life scripts and enables them to live with greater uncertainty. Thus, people will seek out happiness through their uniquely designed personal path. Such as the freedom to be Gay or Lesbian, which is highly popular in today’s society. Giddens also describes how human emotional experience is being radically transformed as we move from a pre-modern to a late modern society. He says that humans are “knowledgeable actors” in that we have the capacity to reflect on and act in their life.

Giddens believes because people are beginning to actively think about what they do, and as more people choose alternative styles of love, the traditions that surround love will soon begin to fall away. Our society will move to a more non-traditional world that emphasizes personal choice. When you stop to think about how outdated the romantic love concept actually is, you will begin to realize the special power you have. Remember that we no longer live in the Middle Ages where women and men had unequal roles in life, were treated differently, and had different economic and social status.

Today, women have a far greater degree of equality. Because of this, romantic roles and expectations have changed. This is the change that Giddens talks about in his book. We would find it hard to believe that our entire world has evolved into a modern society, with the exception of “romantic love.” Giddens would say that we have not let the world of love evolve and adapt to meet the needs of society, and as we become more aware, we will realize the power that we have to create our destiny. As a society I believe we have made rapid advancement of technology and the “information age” has made us more progressive and “open” than ever before. As a result of this expansion, Giddens believes we will have different needs, unique personal and professional opportunities, and much more spiritual reasons for choosing our true Life Mate.

I think Giddens also believes that there are things about romantic love that need to be redefined, things such as love only occur between a man and a woman. Or that romantic love is supposed to make you feel ecstatic and silly. Or that love will last forever. None of these are necessarily true in today’s world. Homosexual love is part of our culture and cannot be denied. Real love does not make you say and do stupid things. Of the three, having your love last forever is the most attainable, but people of the 21st century realize that it will only last if you are with the right person and if both partners continuously work on making the relationship happy and healthy. Even still, it is hard for people today to think of “forever,” because it can not be comprehended by a lot of people, and many tend to live happily in the moment.

Anthony Giddens takes sexuality to a new level. He takes a theoretical approach and looks at sexuality through many broad categories. He shows how modern love is much more open and free in many ways, not only where gender roles are concerned, but also with sexuality and family issues. He talks of the addictions of sexuality all the way to sexuality as a democracy, meaning that this new change in sexuality will be considered traditional sexuality from this point on, as the way our society views the sexuality of those just a few decades ago. This book is one that will allow the reader to view many aspects of sexuality from a social standpoint, and apply it to certain social attitudes in our society today, these attitudes can range from the acceptance of lesbian and gays, and the common sight of sex before marriage and women equality. The new era of sexuality has taken a definite “transformation” as Giddens puts it, and as a society we are living in the world of change in which we must adapt, by accepting our society as a changing society, and not be naive and think all the rules of sexuality from our parents time our still in existence now.


1. Mannis, R. J.: Quoted from a book review.

2. Gordon, M. : Quoted from a synopsis of ” The Transformation of Intimacy”.

3. All other quotes from Giddens in “The Transformation of Intimacy”.

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