Shameless Propositions: Women's Sexuality and Theoretical Authority

Shameless Propositions: Women's Sexuality and Theoretical Authority

Shameless Propositions: Women's Sexuality and Theoretical Authority

Shameless Propositions: Women's Sexuality and Theoretical Authority

Synopsis

Dr. Alice Adams has been working in both, academia and the private sector to advance the understanding and maximize the effectiveness of sexuality and gender for over fifteen years. She served as Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program at the University of Maine, and has held Associate Professor positions at Macalester College and Miami University of Ohio, as well as being a former Bye-Fellow at Cambridge University, England, and winner of a Rockefeller Fellowship.

Excerpt

Shameless Propositions is about how scientific ideas about sexuality, especially women’s sexuality, achieve authority. This is of necessity a skeptic’s project. Scientific inquiry into sexuality, in common with scientific investigations of similarly charged questions about racial difference or the existence of God, is particularly vulnerable to the influence of our desires, anxieties, half- or unexamined assumptions, personal agendas, and moral prescriptions. For anyone who wants the truth of sexuality, therefore, the most welcome critiques are those that attempt to remove all that is prejudicial. From whatever facts remain when the subjective excrescences are scraped away, one could hope to construct an accurate model of what it is like to be sexed, gendered, and sexual.

As it turns out, that is very hard to do. Establishing a position of scientific authority in relation to sexuality is dependent less on one’s command of the facts than on one’s ability to negotiate the fears, territorialism, questionable precedents, and expectations that one’s conclusions be applicable to moral questions. It occurred to me during my initial research for Shameless Propositions that it might not be possible to get past the extra stuff and arrive at a clean understanding. Only later did it dawn on me that there was no extra stuff, and that even the bad ideas are integral to sexuality as we know it. By “bad ideas” I mean those that relate loosely to the evidence produced to support them as well as those that have energized damaging stereotypes. the bad ideas and all the sincere attempts to deconstruct those ideas—both are more essential to how we live our sexuality than any empirical data.

The rest of this introduction is an explanation of this guiding idea, and the remainder of the book explores how it happens that sexuality emerges from tensions between our biological and social capacities, between what . . .

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