Methods, Sex, and Madness

Methods, Sex, and Madness

Methods, Sex, and Madness

Methods, Sex, and Madness


Social research yields knowledge which powerfully affects our daily lives. The 'facts' it generates shape not just how we see ourselves and others, but also whether or not we see the existing status quo as normal, just and legitimate. This book examines and questions the methods used by social researchers to produce such knowledge. It focuses chiefly on research into human sexuality and madness. It introduces and critically assesses everything from survey methods to participant observation. It opens up broader philosophical debates about the nature of knowledge, and highlights issues surrounding the ethics and politics of research.
The book looks at the research community and the research process in detail before moving on to examine the main techniques used in social research:

• the use of official statistics

• the survey method

• interviewing

• laboratory observation

• ethnography

• the use of documentary sources

• textual analysis.
By exploring both technical and conceptual problems in the work of researchers like Freud and Kinsey, and by considering the difficulties faced by researchers concerned with phenomena such as rape, witch hunts and prostitution this book makes methodological issues both interesting and accessible.


Germain Garnier, christened Marie…was a well-built young man with a thick red beard, who, until the age of fifteen…had lived and dressed like a girl, showing 'no mark of masculinity'. Then once, in the heat of puberty, the girl jumped across a ditch while chasing pigs through a wheatfield: 'at that very moment the genitalia and the male rod came to be developed in him, having ruptured the ligaments by which they had been held enclosed'. Marie, soon to be Marie no longer, hastened home to her/his mother, who consulted physicians and surgeons, all of whom assured the somewhat shaken woman that her daughter had become her son.

(Laqueur 1990:127)

This story, told in the sixteenth century, reflected the centuries old belief that 'women had the same genitals as men except that…“theirs are inside the body and not outside it”' (Laqueur 1990:4). If girls were too boisterous, their vagina, uterus and ovaries, which were imagined as an interior penis, scrotum and testicles, might simply fall out, transforming them into males. In Making Sex, Laqueur shows how for thousands of years it was common-sense knowledge that there was but one sex, that the female body was an inverted male body. Since around the eighteenth century, however, common sense has postulated the existence of two 'opposite' sexes, female and male, and that the difference between the two is biologically defined, fixed and immutable. Until the eighteenth or nineteenth century, it was also common-sense knowledge that women could not conceive unless they experienced orgasm during sexual intercourse (how else could they release the seed from their inverted testicles?), many people also believed that venereal disease could be cured by sexual contact with an uncontaminated partner-an idea which was sometimes offered as a defence by men who were on trial for the

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