Sexual Inequalities and Social Justice

Sexual Inequalities and Social Justice

Sexual Inequalities and Social Justice

Sexual Inequalities and Social Justice

Synopsis

This pioneering collection of ten ethnographically rich essays signals the emergence of a new paradigm of social analysis committed to understanding and analyzing social oppression in the context of sexuality and gender. The contributors, an interdisciplinary group of social scientists representing anthropology, sociology, public health, and psychology, illuminate the role of sexuality in producing and reproducing inequality, difference, and structural violence among a range of populations in various geographic, historical, and cultural arenas. In particular, the essays consider racial minorities including Hispanics, Koreans, and African Americans; discuss disabled people; examine issues including substance abuse, sexual coercion, and HIV/AIDS; and delve into other topics including religion and politics. Rather than emphasizing sexuality as an individual trait, the essays view it as a social phenomenon, focusing in particular on cultural meaning and real-world processes of inequality such as racism and homophobia. The authors address the complex and challenging question of how the research under discussion here can make a real contribution to the struggle for social justice.

Excerpt

In recent years, the intersection between sexuality and social inequality has increasingly become a major focus of concern, both on the part of researchers seeking to understand intellectually the ways in which forms of inequality affect the constitution of diverse expressions of sexuality, and, perhaps even more powerfully, on the part of academics who hope to use their work in order to influence positive forms of social change.

This focus on the intersection of sexuality, social inequality, and the struggle for social change is still, of course, a very new phenomenon— and flies in the face of much of what has constituted the field of sexuality studies over the course of the past century. Indeed, it might easily be dismissed as little more than a slightly rebellious undercurrent in a much longer process of seeking professional respectability. After all, over the course of the twentieth century, perhaps the greatest challenge that was perceived in the study of sexuality was the need to achieve mainstream credibility and legitimacy—to transform the study of sex from a marginalized, eccentric, and vaguely suspect undertaking to a legitimate form of academic inquiry. Throughout this period, the most important way of achieving such legitimacy was in general to seek to emphasize the scientific credibility of sexuality research. The goal was what Paul Robinson aptly described as “the modernization of sex”—the progressive application of scientific methodological tools in order to wrest sexual behavior and experience from the realm of religion, superstition, or folklore, and to reconstitute it as part of the scientific record in relation to human life (see Robinson 1976).

In its first instance, then, the emphasis on the scientific study of hu-

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