Bisexuality in the United States: A Social Science Reader

Bisexuality in the United States: A Social Science Reader

Bisexuality in the United States: A Social Science Reader

Bisexuality in the United States: A Social Science Reader

Synopsis

For years bisexuality was considered merely a transitional stage between a person's presumed heterosexuality and "true" homosexuality, or vice versa, and was thereby regarded with suspicion by the lesbian and gay community and contempt by the "straight" world. The study and understanding of bisexuality has surpassed the stereotyped representations of previous eras (e.g., Basic Instinct), but few books attempt to seriously engage the subject as a whole. Paula Rust at last rectifies this absence in the literature by presenting the first interdisciplinary and comprehensive review of social scientific research and theory about bisexuality.

With contributions by sociologists, psychologists, historians, political theorists, and others, the book yields an overall picture of what we know, and what we don't know, about the subject. The book provides a wealth of information about the lives and experiences of bisexual people. Articles cover early research in which bisexuality was conceptualized as "situational homosexuality," pioneering research on bisexuality as an authentic sexual orientation, scholarship on bisexuality in the context of AIDS research, the phenomena of "bisexual chic" and biphobia, queer theory, and the contemporary relationship between academia and political activism. Selections include theoretical and empirical studies from social science perspectives as well as popular writings about the growth of the bisexual movement in the 1980s and 1990s. -- Journal of Sex Research

Excerpt

As a society, we are fascinated by sexuality We pretend that sexuality is a taboo subject, but the taboo only makes it more exciting to talk about. the number of “sex surveys” and articles about sexuality in popular magazines is a testament to our curiosity We want to know what other people are doing and how; we want to know if our sexual habits are “normal” and we are mesmerized by others’ unusual sex habits. But even though we are curious about others’ sexuality, we have historically looked askance at the people who collect sexual information and bring it to us. Until recently, the study of sexuality was stigmatized; anyone who undertook research in this area risked their career and their personal reputation. As a result, research on sexuality was scarce and value laden. Before the 1970s most researchers who trod this dangerous ground aimed to discover a “cure” for undesirable sexual practices, and the few researchers who were sympathetic toward sexual diversity wrote about their findings in overly technical jargon to discourage sensationalization and maintain scientific credibility.

The field of sex research changed dramatically in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. the stigma surrounding sex research abated as sexuality entered the political arena in the form of debates about birth control and abortion, pornography, prostitution, sexual coercion, sex in the media, and sexual orientation. Both the feminist movement and the lesbian and gay movements helped legitimize sexuality as a political —not just a personal—issue. the removal of “homosexuality” from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association opened the door for research on sexual orientation that treated lesbians and gay men as the psychological, social, and moral equivalents of heterosexuals. Changes in the social and political climate also made it possible for lesbians and gay men in the social and psychological sciences to come out and begin studying our own communities from our own points of view. Finally, socially constructed and actual crises such as the “breakdown of the family,” rising rates of unwed teenage pregnancy, and the aids pandemic forced us to realize that our ignorance about sexuality was costing us dearly. Sexual knowledge became vital to our economic, social, and even . . .

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