In Bodies That Matter, Judith Butler further develops her distinctive theory of gender by examining the workings of power at the most "material" dimensions of sex and sexuality. Deepening the inquiries she began in Gender Trouble, Butler offers an original reformulation of the materiality of bodies, examining how the power of heterosexual hegemony forms the "matter" of bodies, sex, and gender.
Butler argues that power operates to constrain "sex" from the start, delimiting what counts as a viable sex. She offers a clarification of the notion of "performativity" introduced in Gender Trouble and explores the meaning of a citational politics. The text includes readings of Plato, Irigaray, Lacan, and Freud on the formation of materiality and bodily boundaries; "Paris is Burning," Nella Larsen's "Passing," and short stories by Willa Cather; along with a reconsideration of "performativity" and politics in feminist, queer, and radical democratic theory.