A World Made Sexy examines museum exhibitions, art, books, magazines, films, and television to explore the popular rise of eroticism in America and across the developed world. Starting with a brief foray into the history of pornography, Rutherford goes on to explore a sexual liberation movement shaped by the ideas of Marx and Freud, the erotic styles of Salvador Dali and pop art, the pioneering use of publicity as erotica by Playboy and other media, and the growing concerns of cultural critics over the emergence of a regime of stimulation. In one case study, Rutherford pairs James Bond and Madonna in order to examine the link between sex and aggression. He details how television advertising after 1980 constructed a theatre of the libido to entice the buying public, and concludes by situating the cultivation of eroticism in the wider context of Michel Foucault's views on social power and governmentality, and specifically how they relate to sexuality, during the modern era.
A World Made Sexy is about power and pleasure, emancipation and domination, and the relationship between the personal passions and social controls that have crafted desire.