Emerging Directions in Sociological Research on Sexuality

By Adam, Barry; Maticka-Tyndale, Eleanor | Canadian Review of Sociology, August 2011 | Go to article overview

Emerging Directions in Sociological Research on Sexuality


Adam, Barry, Maticka-Tyndale, Eleanor, Canadian Review of Sociology


THIS SPECIAL ISSUE IS SOMETHING OF a departure for the Canadian Review of Sociology. Sexuality studies have shown considerable growth in recent years around the world with the development of a sexualities section in the American Sociological Association and the emergence of journals like Sexualities, GLQ, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, and Culture, Health and Sexuality that move beyond the traditional biomedical and psychological core of the field into social, historical, and cultural dimensions of sexuality and their policy implications. Much of the paradigm shift from the biomedical and psychological to the social has been pioneered by scholars in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) studies and several of these articles draw on that rich legacy. The spell of the "natural" has so long dominated research in heterosexuality that biological and positivist epistemologies hold it in the tight grip of the "scientific" search for "facts." The rapidly transforming trajectory of LGBT sexualities from sin, sickness, and crime to diversity, innovation, and the queer has made the sociocultural underpinnings of sexuality much more evident and opened the door for an expansive sociological imagination of all sexualities. With scholarship flourishing in LGBT studies, clearly there is still more to be done to queer the heterosexual and understand its sociocultural organization, politic, and diversity.

While some scholars have been contributing to the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, many Canadian sociologists have been going outside the country to find publication venues friendly to their work. The call for papers for this issue seemed at first a new venture, even a bit of a gamble. The response was impressive. A large number of papers arrived from across the country, from graduate students through to more senior academics, many of publishable quality. The papers in this special issue, then, are (hopefully) just the start of an expanded publishing stream in CRS with more papers to follow in upcoming issues.

These papers show some of the wealth of Canadian scholarship emerging in the area. They use methodologies ranging from survey and interview to sociohistorical and cultural analysis. Several address the intersections between social inequality and state institutions as the latter reproduce the social fault lines that they are mandated to dissolve. The article by Edward Lee and Shari Brotman, "Identity, Refugeeness, Belonging: Experiences of Sexual Minority Refugees in Canada" raises issues of intersectionalities, western conceptions of sexuality overall and "homosexuality" in particular. Lee and Brotman challenge dominant theoretical and advocacy paradigms and demonstrate the imperative of recognizing cultural diversities in sexuality. They show how the cultural imagination of the state instantiates particular forms of gender and sexuality, then requires conformity at the pain of exclusion or exile. At this nexus of state, gender, and sexuality, the fears of the security state play out on the lives and bodies of some of the most vulnerable of people, immigrants and refugees.

Canada's pride in its liberalism regarding diversity, especially by sexual orientation, is belied by the survey reported by Catherine Taylor and Tracey Peter, the largest of its kind ever done. This national survey on the school experiences of LGBT youth gives new force to the Althusserian idea of the school system as an ideological and repressive state apparatus or perhaps a social engine of gender and sex policing. The authors make passing reference to the refusal of the Roman Catholic school system to cooperate with the study at all, an example of the power of a church/state institution not only to thwart research but to cover up any recognition of the destructive effects of its own policies. The United Nations Human Rights Committee condemned Canada and Ontario in 1999 (CRIPE 2010) for having violated the equality provisions (Article 26) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for the state institutionalization of one religious denomination over all others.

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