Language and Sexuality

By Deborah Cameron; Don Kulick | Go to book overview
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1. We thank Bambi Schieffelin for bringing this study to our attention; the questionnaire items are reproduced in full in chapter 1 below (p. 3). It turns out that the publication of the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association resulted in the dismissal of the editor George Lundberg, who had held his position for seventeen years. The vice-president of the American Medical Association, who fired Lundberg, had no objection to the scientific merits of the article, but he accused Lundberg of hurrying the paper through the normal publication schedule, in an attempt to influence events in Washington ( The controversy generated by this article is a further example of how talk about sex is political in this case in the narrow, partisan sense, but also, crucially, in the broad sense of impacting in concrete and contestable ways on the world.

2. This of course is a point that has received a lot of attention from feminists, who have always viewed sex as a site of both 'pleasure and danger' (Vance 1984) for women. Concerns about violent, unpleasurable or degrading sex have been less prominent in the discourse of the Gay Liberation movement and its successors, though some dangers associated with sex (particularly the risk of contracting HIV) have been discussed more extensively since the late 1980s.


1. A note on terminology: we will distinguish heterosexism, meaning attitudes and practices based on an ideological belief that heterosexuality is superior to all other forms of sexuality / sexual identity, from homophobia, meaning attitudes and practices based on hatred and contempt for homosexuals. The two do frequently go together, but in principle they are distinguishable; something can be heterosexist without being homophobic. (A terminological parallel in the domain of gender relations is the difference between sexism and misogyny (i.e. woman-hatred.)

2. The phrase 'normative heterosexuality' (another phrase we will sometimes use is 'compulsory heterosexuality') refers to the particular form of sexual relations



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Language and Sexuality


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