Archives for category: Medicalization and Pathology

After reading the article by Dean Spade I really wanted to learn more about gender reassignment surgery. So I went on a search on the web where I ran across a news report about an old mining town called Trinidad Colorado. Here, they say, is the sex change capital of the world. Here in this little town is a woman named Marcie Bowers who does gender reassignment surgery. Marcie once was a man but underwent her own gender reassignment surgery and now she is known for the surgeries that she does to help those who want to become another sex. In the news report they talk about a man who is going to get surgery to become a women and how his wife is still going to stand by his side even though he wants to be a women. This made me very happy to know that not all partners up and leave when their partner tells them they want to change their sex.

The town seems to be very understanding of gender reassignment and doesn’t seem to judge those who are going through the process. To me it was interesting to find that this small town was popular for gender reassignment surgery. I find it rather cool.

After learning about this town I went on another search. My friend told me that she had seen an episode on True Life about gender reassignment. In this show you learn about Elle, a man wanting to become a women and Ted and women wanting to become a man. Both stories are sad. Elle knew she wanted to be a woman but fought her feelings and ended up getting married but finally she couldn’t live a lie so she told her wife about how she wanted to be a woman. Elle’s wife ended up leaving her and Elle went through a struggle with suicide and finally down the road she saved up enough money to get her Adams apple off and get breasts. Through this process her mother was by her side but sadly shortly after Elle’s surgery her mom past away leaving Elle with life insurance money which Elle ended up using to go get bottom surgery done and guess who did it? None other than Marcie from Trinidad Colorado. Elle was happy about her change and said it was a hard long process but it needed to be done.

Ted the one who wanted to become a man had a girlfriend and once he told his girlfriend that he wanted to become a man she was there to stand by his side through the process. For Ted it was hard. His family was not very supportive they didn’t see why he would want to get his breast removed and become a man, but finally they came around and ended up giving him money to help with his surgery. Both of these people showed me how hard and expensive this surgery is and how they have to struggle to get it done. It gave me more of an insight into gender reassignment surgery.

Kielly Perkins

I had never taken a large amount of time to think about the AIDS epidemic until I watched Eric Sawyer’s interview. Sawyer made a very good point and the end of his interview that related to my life perfectly. He talked about the generational divide that separates his generation from teens and young adults that were born in the late 80’s and 90’s. “Most young people grew up after HIV was discovered” and it is not seen as a chronic illness, it isn’t seen as a crisis anymore. It is seen as a sickness that can be taken care of with a cocktail. Unfortunately, the drugs did not work for everyone. There are side affects that can cause disability as well as kill people. The dangerous nature of HIV and AIDS was something that I knew existed, but Sawyer put a much better perspective on its effect on the population, more specifically the LGBTQ community.

One of the issues that Sawyer brought up in the present day gay community is barebacking. People participate in barebacking because it is new and dangerous, it is more exciting because you shouldn’t do it. This causes great issues with keeping HIV from spreading. Along with barebacking, gay men that are bug chasers and gift givers make the spreading of HIV even more likely, as well as mutation.  Some people believe that once you have HIV having sex with someone else isn’t a problem. Unfortunately if two people have sex, and each is carrying a different strain of HIV, the disease can mutate as the two strains mix. The present day understanding of HIV and AIDS as not being the epidemic that it once was, is something that should be re-considered. The mutation of any virus or disease means that it needs further research and funding.

Though the subject matter is not the same, Contagion gives a perspective on the medicalization of disease and the hoops that have to be jumped through to create a cure and get it distributed to the public. In this film the world is struck by an epidemic and the audience is introduced to the process that the CDC and WHO have to go though to discover the R-knot of the disease and come up with a cure. The difficulty that the doctors in the CDC and the WHO have with this disease is the same issue that bare backers, bug chasers and gift givers will perpetuate if they continue to mix HIV strains together. The disease kept mutating as it moved from host to host, and until the doctors found the R-knot the disease was as uncontrollable as AIDS in its time. This modern perspective on disease gives those that don’t know much about epidemics a good understanding of what HIV and AIDS was like back in it’s time.

– Sarah Klapperich

This year, a book containing a study similar to Kinsey’s research was published. A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire, claims to be more accurate because of its much larger sample size. Doctors Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, authors of the book and the main researchers in the study, analyzed and categorized millions of web searches and media for their research. Ogas and Gaddam believe that their research can be more reliable than Kinsey’s because of the sample size and the raw data that was collected. Because the data wasn’t collected by just voluntary people (psychology students, etc.) or personal interactions, the data is more truthful. Although the honesty of the individual data collected is correct, the claim of the larger sample size is still not helpful in explaining sexual desires. The authors and critics of the book agree that Kinsey’s research was not very accurate because not only of the sample size but also that fact that the subjects were white middle-class males and females. The Internet data collected is of course not biased with race immediately, but can be when looked at other factors that grant certain people access to the Internet and especially to erotica.

Janice Irvine explained in her book Disorders of Desire: Sexuality and Gender in Modern American Sexology the methods and outcomes of different sexology approaches, like Kinsey’s well-known history with the science of sex. Irvine shows that Kinsey’s results were unreliable because they didn’t include non-white middle-class males and females. People of Color, intersexed, transsexual, working class, and other minorities were not included in his research, therefore excluding those lived experiences that may affect sexual desire. Irvine also argues that although Kinsey intended to help explain sex and sexual desire, he and other sexologists hindered certain sexual practices.

Likewise, the work of Ogas and Gaddam have excluded certain populations and can be harmful to certain populations. The study excludes people without access to erotica and/or the Internet in general. This data could exclude many areas in the world without computers and/or Internet and many older generations that prefer not to use modern technology. Like other things relying so heavily on modern technology, it can be ageist. There may also be people who simply choose not to use the Internet or a computer to express or explore their desires. This study can also be harmful because it categorizes and adds negative stereotypes to certain groups of people. Explaining something phenomenal as natural can become dangerous for the reputation and treatment of certain groups, as Irvine and others have warned.

-Eleanor Stevenson

Oftentimes in organizational politics, it seems that the quest for widespread societal acceptance is partnered with the emphatic reflection of mainstream cultural attitude.  In an organization’s journey toward achieving general respect for its purpose, too often the organization seems to enable an over-identification between itself and the larger culture.  In Irvine’s work Disorders of Desire, she recounts the history of sexology and maps its different ideological attitudes; one of the deeply rooted tenets in sexology is the valorization of marriage and the nuclear family.  Early in its existence the field of sexology had to dig in its heels and fight for cultural acceptance, and part of how this was done was by citing the reparation of marriages as one of sexology’s primary objectives.  Irvine writes, “Scientific sexologists had always defended themselves against challengers to their cultural authority by stressing their connection to medical science, impugning the credentials and methods of rivals, and focusing their practices in areas of major concern to mainstream culture: the clarification and regularization of gender and the refinement of sex therapy techniques for the purpose of, as Time magazine phrased it in 1970, ‘repairing the conjugal bed,'” (Irvine, 102).  While it may not necessarily be bad for sexologists to try and improve the institution of marriage, the problem comes in when this is done without an examination of the patriarchal mechanisms of female control inherent in marriage and also when marriage is valorized at the expense of all other types of relationship organizations.  However, the valuing of a traditional marriage relationship is an attitude deeply supported by American culture, and thus by appealing to the this deep-seated cultural institution sexology saved its place at the table of serious and valuable practices.

Reflecting on this kind of cultural identification strategy, I am reminded of the attitudes of certain feminist organizers in 1969 in relation to what was eventually termed the Lavender Menace.  From America’s inception to 1969 and continuing on to today, mainstream American culture was/is homophobic.  While early feminist ideology was rather exclusionary in as far as it targeted the problems and interests of white, heterosexual, middle class women, it is my impression that many feminists of this time saw lesbianism as an empowered wayto be a woman-identified woman.  However, in 1969, tensions between lesbian feminists and straight feminist organizations such as the National Organization for Women came to a head.  Betty Friedan (author of The Feminine Mystique and then-president of NOW) is fabled to have been the one who coined the term “Lavender Menace” when she was describing the threat lesbian feminist members posed to the potential achievement of NOW’s goals in American society.  Her argument seemed to be along these lines: since the greater culture is homophobic, the presence of lesbians in feminist organizations or the pursuit of lesbian objectives by these organizations would deteriorate mainstream society’s acceptance of feminist organizations and prevent them from making any gains towards feminist aims.  Thus it can be seen that in a struggle to be accepted by culture, some feminist organizations have attempted to mirror attitudes of mainstream society regarding homosexuality, sometimes at the expense of their own ideology.

By Rosalind Rini

In the Disorders of Desire, it is amazing how enthusiastic and proud the feminists were during the 1970s. It seemed that the minute they wanted to change something or a conflict came about, they acted aggressively and actively to demand respect. This group of people show an enormous sense of leadership and show true pride in who they are. I know that many people, me included, look up to those during this time of struggle and feel great appreciation for the impact they have made, specifically in field medicalization and  pathology. This proud leadership was perfectly displayed during their long 3 year confrontation between feminists and The American Psychiatric Association regarding the elimination of homosexuality among other mental illnesses. This impacting change sparked  the flame for the social shift of equality for homosexuals. The qualities presented among these feminists gives people confidence and in return, we have a sense of appreciation for what they have accomplished.

Elizabeth Kasbeer

So much time, money, and effort is put into finding the G-spot. Men and women both are fascinated by the elusive G-spot. Men want to be masters of pleasure and give women mind-blowing sex that will make them sex gods. While women just don’t think they’ve had a “real” orgasm until they’ve had a G-spot orgasm.

There are countless books…

magazines articles…

and sex toys….

all geared towards achieving a G-spot orgasm. We are a culture that is obsessed with the G-spot, but why is it so desirable? In Disorders of Desire, Whipple and Perry are quoted saying the G-spot would offer a “deeper” and “less superficial orgasm”(Irvine 123). At the time, there was a fear that sex would focus more on the vagina and less on the clitoris, which would have supported a return to “patriarchal conceptions of sex, and heterosexual intercourse could maintain its privileged status as the ultimate sex” (Irvine 118).  While patriarchal conceptions of sex and the privileging of heterosexual sex still exist, the existence of the G-spot has not brought back the idea that women can achieve orgasm only through vaginal stimulation. Actually, many articles and how to’s advocate women exploring their body on their own first and trying to achieve G-spot orgasm through masturbation. I advocate anything that gets women trying to better understand their bodies. Similarly, these articles also argue that G-spot orgasms can only occur if a women is highly sexually aroused and feels a close connection to her partner.

One of the most interesting aspects about the G-spot orgasm is female ejaculation. Many of the book titles out there today concerning G-spot orgasms also sport the words “female ejaculation” in the title. While the main course is obviously the orgasm, experiencing female ejaculation is also an enticing aspect. An experience that allows a woman to ejaculate during sex is so cool! Not only does showcase yet another similarity between men and women, but is just a super fascinating experience.

However, not being able to achieve a G-spot orgasm could and probably does make women feel inadequate. All of these fantastic stories about amazing female ejaculating orgasms could make a girl wonder, “why can’t I have one?”.

By Kristy Wilson

I’ve known since I was in the 5th grade that my dad was a “sex addict.”  This may seem like adult information that perhaps a 10 year-old shouldn’t know about, but my parents weren’t perfect.  My dad didn’t perfectly fulfill his role as monogamous husband, and my mom didn’t perfect keeping secrets from her kids.  Whatever.  It didn’t necessarily scar me for life, nor did it necessarily fuck up my own sex life.  It did, however, help to shape my understanding of “good” sex and “bad” sex.  Learning that my father had a “sex addiction” also informed me that his way of having sex was not the “right” way.  Also, I had a certain understanding that it was not necessarily his fault.  He experienced childhood sex abuse and it in turn “caused” his sex addiction, or so I thought.  I remained under the impression for quite some time that my father’s sexual behavior was deviant; it wasn’t how he was supposed to have sex.  But something went wrong along the way and he developed this pathology.  Had nothing happened to him to cause him to develop this excess sexuality, then his sexuality would have developed “normally” into heterosexual, married, monogamy.   This was the impression I had.

Janice Irvine’s Disorders of Desire really opened my eyes to the historical and cultural construction of “sex addiction.”  In the chapter “Regulated Passions,” Irvine traces the history of how sex addiction came to be seen as a legitimate, medicalized pathology.  Irvine basically says that the labeling of sex addiction was a response to those who do not conform to normative, monogamous sexuality within heterosexual marriage.  If they don’t like to have sex the “normal” way, then something must be wrong with them, and there must be a scientific justification for such behavior.  Irvine argues, “It is not surprising that professionals in the late twentieth century would conceptualize concerns regarding sexual desire as major medical problems, since historically physicians have played a significant role not only in the management of sexual behavior but in defining the existence, appropriateness, and ideal object of sexual desire or passion” (176).  In other words, my father’s sexuality was inappropriate according to normative medical standards, which are always culturally subjective.  There was something “wrong” with him because he didn’t want to have sex with just my mother.

This whole idea of the “sex addict” is a means of further legitimizing heterosexual, monogamous, married sex as the normal and natural sexuality.  There was nothing deviant about my father’s sexuality.  His sexuality was just different from my mother’s sexuality, which fell in accordance with normative societal standards (that is, until she came out as a lesbian, but that story is for another time).  My father did make a mistake, however, by not informing my mother of his different sexuality to make sure she was okay with it, or she could have made the choice not to marry him.  His sex addiction did “hurt the family,” but now I realize that is just because we live in a society where it is expected to.  My dad died when I was 16, so I can’t tell him that I get it now.  I understand that his sexuality was not deviant or wrong, just different.  Sex addiction is a historical and cultural phenomenon, it’s not some medical disease that my dad suffered from.  He just had sex differently than he was “suppose” to according to modern Western ideology.  I can’t fault him for that. -Stephanie Halsted

One of the main reasons I got so interested in Gender Studies is because of my Uncle David. In 1990, at 30 years old, my uncle died from AIDS. I’m named after him (my middle name is David) and I am proud of having him as my uncle. Once I first started learning about AIDS, I was simultaneously understanding that my uncle was a gay man. Sexology was a very important aspect of the AIDS crisis that began in the 1980’s. In Janice M. Irvine’s Disorders of Desire, Irvine says, “…the AIDS crisis starkly delineated the ways in which ideology informs issues of sexuality, science, and medicine. First identified in the urban gay male subculture in the United States, the disease was virtually ignored by medical and governmental establishments, who saw it as affecting only marginalize groups…” (Irvine 124). The AIDS crisis became an event that will forever stigmatize gay people and fuel the fire of fear and rejection in homosexuality within our culture.

See asshole above.

Irvine also says, “…the AIDS epidemic represented a perfect opportunity for sexologists to consolidate professional expertise” (Irvine 125). Because the AIDS crisis was so fast developing, research on the disease and preventions against it became a huge issue for social conflict. Irvine even says that “AIDS had afflicted one hundred thousand people by the summer of 1989;of that number, half had died” (Irvine 124). My uncle soon followed that statistic. He was a proud gay man, and was living within the negative associations made between gay men and AIDS. The specificity of this disease should not warrant any further stigmatization against homosexuals within our culture. Hopefully one day AIDS will be cured and no longer seen as a strictly “gay disease.” Until then, no gay man, including my uncle, should ever feel shame.

– Sophie Reynolds

We all do it. We “do the do,” as professor Marlon Bailey says. But we are so shy to talk about anything involving sex. Why? Without sex, none of us would even exist. Yes I know, you just got the gross visual of your parents doing it. You’ll survive! Human sexual behavior and it’s implications within society was never fully explored until scientist Alfred Kinsey decided to bring thousands of peoples sexual secrets to the surface in order to evaluate commonalities between human sexual behavior.

Kinsey’s was a hardcore essentialist, and he used this for explaining sexuality in women. His essentialist point of view on human sexual behavior was both liberating and problematic for those who were affected by his research. In Janice M. Irvine’s Disorders of Desire, Irvine digs deep into Kinsey’s history and praises his research in saying, “…Kinsey’s empiricism and sexual enthusiasm were generalized to his research on women in a fashion that was truly supportive of female sexuality” (Irvine 40). To Kinsey, sexual behavior was a natural phenomena, and “natural” to him was anything that occurred. This embracement of female sexuality opened up doors to the understanding of female desires within the vast variations of human sexual behavior. Our culture was not as quick to explore female sexuality like Kinsey was. In fact, Irvine says, “It seems likely that the lack of public attention to his findings about female sexuality had more to do with sociopolitical variable than with Kinsey’s personal research interests” (Irvine 41). This lack of public attention stemmed from the uncomfortability of exploration of human sexual behavior within our culture. Socially and politically, Kinsey crossed lines. And if he didn’t do so, our culture could be even more quiet about sex than we already are.

-Sophie Reynolds

Education has changed a dramatic amount since my parents went to school. I consider my relationship with them a close one to where I am able to express details about my personal life openly. The class discussions about gender literature involves subjects that are traditionally kept private. Examples of topics that are brought up in our literature might involve different types of ways to have sex, the history of the development of sexology, or the fact that one of the professors at IU was one of the most influential people involved in the study of sexology. I try to inform her as much as I can about what I’m learning but she seemed especially interested in the fact that we are able to speak so openly about subjects like these in a college classroom.

Kinsey isn’t only known for the research he conducted but for also having an enormous influence on how our society today can openly share information that might have previously been considered inappropriate during the time my mom attended college. I can see a significant difference between what my mom and I consider an “open” conversation. Because of the freedom I have been given to express myself, I feel comfortable asking people personal questions, I am open to new ideas that might not be completely understood by society yet, and I feel free to ask those who are different from me questions about their lifestyles while knowing that they understand that my questions stem from genuine curiosity.

Elizabeth Kasbeer