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Home arrow Political science arrow Aesthetic Labour: Rethinking Beauty Politics in Neoliberalism


In this chapter I have examined the aesthetics of sexual discontent through a discussion of the ways in which men who participate in the London seduction community talk about their actual and ideal sexual partners. While acknowledging that those who become involved in the London seduction community do so precisely because they are unhappy with their sexual and intimate lives, this analysis provides evidence to support the view—unpopular within much sociological work on intimacy—that contemporary sexual and intimate relationships are marked by persistent forms of discontent and disaffection and that this has something to do with the political-economic structures of neoliberal capitalism (Gregg 2013; Hochschild 2012; Illouz 2012). Far from the celebrated ‘democratisation of desire’ (McNair 1996), wherein desire becomes radically pluralised and de-hierarchised, the narratives these men present suggest that the affective rhythms and embodied impulses of desire are being colonised by a visual cultural that celebrates an exceedingly narrow definition of feminine desirability, alongside the machinations of an economic system that privileges enterprise and capital acquisition over all else. In this context, the ‘specific feelings, specific rhythms’ (Williams 1977, p. 133) which constitute wider structures of sexual desire become overdetermined by market logics, producing a kind of circumscribed libidinousness that is entirely generic in its aims and ambitions. As in neoliberal culture more broadly, there is an emptying out of the subjective and the interpersonal, as a capitalist logic of value comes to undermine and obscure a more expansive appreciation of human values (Skeggs 2014).

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