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"[A] well-researched book, one that will be referred to often...in the on-going battle to create a legitimate area of scientific inquiry out of a topic that still elicits titters."
The San Francisco Review of Books
This is the first book to examine the development and impact of sexologythe scientific study of sexin the United States. Briefly recounting its century-long history, Janice Irvine begins with the pioneering research of Alfred Kinsey and analyzes the attempt by sexual scientists to associate themselves with biomedical methodology in order to achieve the status of respected professionals in this country. Considering the development of modern sexological research and the clinical practice of sex therapy in the context of a broader social history of sexuality and gender, Irvine reveals how the content and direction of sexual science has been shaped by concerns for professional legitimacy, cultural authority over issues of sex and gender, and the creation of a market for information and therapy.
Evolving from the rigorously empirical research of Kinsey, contemporary sexology is generally associated with biomedical laboratory investigations or psychotherapy. Cautious about the possibility of public censure or the restriction of public funding, research sexologists have been careful to present themselves as staid and dispassionate scientists engaged in ideologically neutral work.
The book examines the social and political changes that have created an identity crisis within modern sexology as it has confronted formidable external challenges. In the cultural turbulence of the late 1960s, a group of sexologists, inspired by the human potential movement, introduced controversial new methods of clinical practice that involved nudity, bodywork, and sexually explicit films. At the same time, the emerging feminist and gay liberation movements rejected the conventional behaviors and gender role prescriptions privileged by biomedical experts in sexology and articulated the connection between personal and political freedom.
Modern sexology now is rife with conflict. "As a field in which scientists, pornographers, feminists, transvestites, therapists, and others uneasily share the podium," Irvine comments, "sexology’s recent history can be characterized as a turf war among constituents over the control of cultural definitions of sexuality and gender." Disorders of Desire documents how sexology has failed to transcend factionalism and remains unable to control contemporary sexual discourse. Irvine shows how its volatile debates over issues such as the G-Spot, the research of Shere Hite, childhood gender treatment centers, and AIDS represent fundamentally different constructs of human sexuality and individual freedom.
"A groundbreaking and insightful critique of American sexology which analyzes the field's pervasive, often unacknowledged assumptions about sex and gender. A rich, witty, nuanced account that combines an astute sociology of science with a commitment to progressive sexual politics. Sexology will never be the same."
Carole S. Vance, Ph.D., M.P.H., Columbia University School of Public Health
"Tells with wit how a struggling sexology movement took Kinsey's liberating message about sexuality and tried to mainstream it and legitimize it. Irvine shows how value and gender issuesespecially those about women-interfered repeatedly with the presentation of a unified sexual science."
Zella Luria, The Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College
"An intelligent and provocative historical account of the strengths and weaknesses of the sexology profession."
John D'Emilio, University of North Carolina, and co-author of Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America
"Disorders of Desire is a comprehensive, nuanced investigation.... [Irvine] combines an outsider's perspective with an insider's knowledge of the field to explore the professionalization of modern American sexology and its underlying ideologies, the role of sexology in the historical construction of sexual disease, and the field's relationship to shifting political, cultural, economic and demographic trends."
Arlene J. Stein, The San Francisco Bay Times
"Irvine writes clearly and engagingly an impressive accomplishment considering the complexity of the history and the sophistication of her insights."
Part I: The Emergence of Scientific Sexology
1. Toward a "Value-Free" Science of Sex: The Kinsey Reports
2. Science, Medicine, and a Market
Part II: Sexology at a Crossroad: Consolidation and Confusion
3. The Humanistic Theme in Sexology
4. Sexual Science and Sexual Politics
5. Conflict and Accommodation: Who Defines Sexuality?
Part III: The Practice of Scientific Sexology: Sex Therapy and Gender Research
6. Repairing the Conjugal Bed: The Clinical Practice of Modern Sex Therapy
7. Boys Will Be Girls: Contemporary Research on Gender
Janice M. Irvine is Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of Talk About Sex: The Battles over Sex Education in the United States and the editor of Sexual Cultures and the Construction of Adolescent Sexualities (Temple). In 2005, she received the Simon and Gagnon Award from the Sexualities Section of the American Sociological Association.
Health, Society, and Policy, edited by Sheryl Ruzek and Irving Kenneth Zola.
No longer active.
Health, Society and Policy, edited by Sheryl Ruzek and Irving Kenneth Zola, takes a critical stance with regard to health policy and medical practice, ranging broadly in subject matter. Backlist titles include books on the legal and professional status of midwifery, the experience and regulation of kidney transplants, the evolution of federal law on architectural access, and a political/ethical argument for making the community responsible for universal access to health care.
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