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Disorders of Desire: Sex and Gender in Modern American Sexology (Health, Society, & Policy)

Irvine, Janice M.

21 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 087722689X / ISBN 13: 9780877226895
Published by Temple University Press,U.S.
Used Condition: Very Good Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Disorders of Desire: Sex and Gender in ...

Publisher: Temple University Press,U.S.


Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

About this title


This is the first book to examine the development and impact of sexology, the scientific study of sex, in 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. Author note: Janice M. Irvine is a sociologist in the Community Health Program at Tufts University.


"[A] well-researched book, one that will be referred to 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 "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 issues--especially 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

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