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'Indiscriminate and Shameless Sex’: The Strategic Deployment of Sexuality by the United Farm Workers

Front Cover of American Quarterly
American Quarterly
Mar 2013

“‘Indiscriminate and Shameless Sex’: The Strategic Deployment of Sexuality by the United Farm Workers,” American Quarterly, (Vol. 65, No. 1: March 2013 pp. 63-90).

This essay focuses on how the United Farm Workers (UFW) used sexuality as a tool to advance la causa. From homosexuality and prostitution to sexual abstinence and birth control, discussions of controversial sexual matters appeared constantly in UFW leaders’ speeches, songs, and pamphlets, and in the union’s newspaper, El Malcriado. Union leaders referred to sexual matters so frequently because they considered their positions on sex and sexuality integral to the UFW’s success. By choosing this strategic discourse, however, the union ended up promoting heteropatriarchal ideas and limiting the potential outcomes of their struggle. By complicating our understanding of the cultural tools used by union leaders, this essay provides a more-nuanced picture of the UFW, of how social realities affect social movement strategies, and of the potential pitfalls of adopting hegemonic cultural representations while fighting for systemic change.