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Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  884 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Public Sex collects the best of Pat Califia's work published over the past 20 years. Providing both a chronicle of the radical sex movement in the United States, as well as the definitive opinions of America's most consistent and trenchant sexual critic, Public Sex is must-read material for anyone interested in sexual practices, feminism, censorship, or simply the art of t ...more
Paperback, 250 pages
Published June 12th 2000 by Cleis Press (first published January 1st 1994)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  884 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer
I really enjoyed this book, largely for the ways it traces the effects AIDS had on queer culture's relationship to sex.

An anecdote: I got this book out of the public library. I had it sent over to my local branch, and when I went to pick it up the librarian returned from the storage room slowly, staring at the front cover. When he got back to the desk, he held the book up to another employee and asked "Why do we have this?" The person shrugged and the librarian switched to reading the back cove
Jul 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book is not only good, but important.

Which is different than saying that I agree with every single thing the author says in the entire book. But I love the unfettered intelligent argumentation in here, and I will fight like hell to have the chance to read it. Califia's opinions themselves evolved as time progresses. I most admired his candor, ability to cut through the baloney in discussion of sexual politics, and writing that neither panders to right or left but aims to create definition a
Jul 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
whip-smart, fearless and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, this book is a collection of essays mostly published in the 80's and early 90's, which still ring true today. the essay, "unmonogamy: loving tricks and tricking lovers" changed my life, i think. pretty much everything in here is a gem. i also thought it was hilarious when califia mentioned making their own dildo harness and then said, "velcro makes it adjustable--i love technology!" oh, the 80's. ...more
Jul 24, 2018 added it
When we read this book for book club I googled Pat Califia and like the first thing that came up was a gofundme or something about how he needed money for medical care because he was old and sick and basically living in poverty, and it felt shocking because he was someone so influential and canonical to me in youth, and I think also in a weird way bc of his like power-projecting sexual bravado, but also somehow makes sense that ppl who are kind of out there pushing the margins with their work, w ...more
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Five stars in recognition of its immense contributions to queer and feminist sexual politics; though I'd go for four on the basis of reading experience -- it's pretty one-note in terms of voice/form/tone. Califia is an incisive writer whose critiques of institutional hypocrisy are forceful and persuasive; this reads as an important historical document of the sex wars and a reminder of how (almost) totally cultural mores have changed within feminism in the past two decades--and, too, how attitude ...more
Aug 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sexualities
Pat/rick is one of my favorite writers on any subject, let alone difficult issues of sexuality. This book will challenge everyone on some level, I would imagine (perhaps you are already all right with leathersex, but can you get down with a defense of NAMBLA?) but Pat/rick's wit and wisdom made me examine my prejudices in a way that few other writers have. ...more
Dec 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Even if I didn't always agree with his analysis (for instance, I wish he would have gone further around with the race analysis -- he does pay lip service, but I wanted more specifics, but maybe that's for another author & another book), I'm glad I read this book. Interesting, thought-provoking essays on sex (especially focusing on the subcultures of S/M, sex work, queer culture). ...more
Jan 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing book. I had to read it for a Gender Studies Class in college and I got addicted to Pat Califia. (Who i was in love with until she becamse he) Its thought provoking, educational, contreversial, and it times it pissed me off. At times I hated the author and thought he was crazy. But I came out of it wanting to experience a new world, and now I have all of his books.
Rita Brinkerhoff
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to read about sex and politics together at last
Patrick Califia totally rules. Read it, yo. I love feminists talking about sexual freedom. It always gets hilarious when you're reading about Andrea Dworkin plus the MEESE COMMISSION! Mayhem ensues!!! ...more
Jan 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
A good, if slightly outdated read on harm reduction, sex, and the state. I really hope Pat has it in him to write a revised edition sometime soon, I'd love to read a more current edition. Or just sit down with my hero over a coffee/beer :) ...more
Dec 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
incredible essays on leatherdaddys and sadomasochistic feminism
Apr 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
These essays were incredibly well-written and thought-provoking.
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I encountered this quote a few months ago and couldn't get it out of my head: "If I had a choice between being shipwrecked on a desert island with a vanilla lesbian and a hot male masochist, I'd pick the boy" (159). So I figured I should read the essay it came from and a book of the author's writing.

It's interesting to read a bunch of articles written from the perspective of a lesbian by someone who now identifies as a man.

The first edition of Public Sex came out in 1994, collecting work as far
May 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
All in all it was an interesting read with some valuable articles that are valid both as historical texts I guess now, and relevant to the current day. However, and quite a big however for me, I could not enjoy the book as there kept coming up, at various points throughout, really strong consent issues which the author laid out and did not address, it seemed as if the author was seeing it as just a part of being sadist or dom, when that is not the case. I found the statement about the age of con ...more
bklyn mike art
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
an excellent book for anyone thinking about sexuality, gender and the possibility of living outside or at least expanding those roles and boxes. well thought out work .
Dec 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
there was a time period in my life that I couldn't focus long enough on any one thing to read an actual book. any book. fact or fiction. somehow THIS BOOK cut through all of the heavy brain fog that was weighing my mind down and I was actually able to read it through to completion. Perhaps it was just the realist escape that I needed. Perhaps it was just because it was one of the few radical queer books I could get my hands on at the time. Whatever it may have been.. I will always remember this ...more
Mar 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read for the East Bay Queer Theory bookgroup. I was so engaged! It reads more like a historical text than a current political analysis (at least, the 1st edition from 1994 does—I hear the updated 2nd edition is a little different). I got a little bored with the political details, but I'm just not that into politics. I loved reading about the culture and tone from the 80s and 90s around activism and interconnected issues (pornography, IV drug users, age of consent laws). I respect Califia's work ...more
Nelson Minar
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Fun book of radical essays about sexuality. I like Califia's no bullshit attitude, although of course half of what she says is wrong :-) Still, I'm glad to see someone write challenging essays, and I think her general liberation message is important. Back in my Queer Nation days this was the sort of discourse we were striving for. Maybe it's a bit dated now. ...more
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Pat Califia's journalistic collection is radical, regardless of the title. Califia is emboldened by a queer future that envisions sex positivity; to be sure, Califia is that visionary. Her writing is explicit; don't be shocked upon first reading. Califia is an essential member of the S/M community and advocate for the trans community(ies). A must read for LGBT scholars of all variations. ...more
Mar 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Totally changed the way I think about sexuality, gender, politics, and the media. I find myself evaluating certain contemporary social issues against some of Califia's well-articulated theories presented in his book. ...more
Oct 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Pat is a serious author addressing seriously taboo subjects. Her insight reveals aspects of our modern culture rarely talked about and typically hidden away. Recommended for anyone interested in sexual politics.
Jan 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
patrick califia has a really good analysis of some of the ways sexual expression is repressed, particularly through legal sanction and control of public space, and a really shallow analysis of everything else. It's incredibly frustrating. ...more
Carmen something
May 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Some darling essays about the development of s/m/leather sex in the United States. Lovely nightime reading, if you can ignore the not so bad erotica that slips in from time to time.
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Yet another book that Keith turned me on to. His recommendation was that even Pat Califia could make anal sex sound pretty. He was right.
Mylksnake Wilson
Jun 22, 2007 rated it did not like it
This book was very uninviting to read once I got it home. Surprising for a book with the word sex in the title.
Jan 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Certainly an interesting book, Califia doesn't censor or hold himself back in the least. Sometimes I found myself nodding vigorously in agreement, and sometimes I was deeply disturbed. ...more
Mar 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Probably the best introduction to Califia's non-fiction writing. Thought-provoking, witty, very human, and one of the first sex books I read where I found msyelf nodding along to it quite a bit. ...more
Sep 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sexual-politics
my mom found this in my room and read it for a paper in her psych class. it was totally weird.
Mel Luna
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer
Pat Califia covers a lot of ground in this book of essays. Eloquent, down to earth and entertaining, it is also a good blend of racey and political.
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
"The name of the ride is "Rock the Boat," not "Pretend You're Dead Already" (156). ...more
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Patrick Califia-Rice, who formerly wrote under the names Pat Califia and Patrick Califia, is a writer of nonfiction (on men, gender, transgender identity, and sexuality) and fiction (erotica, poetry, and short stories). ...more

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