Archives for posts with tag: sexology

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