Sex Is Not a Natural Act and Other Essays

Sex Is Not a Natural Act and Other Essays

Sex Is Not a Natural Act and Other Essays

Sex Is Not a Natural Act and Other Essays


This collection of sexologist Leonore Tiefer's essays includes popular as well as professional writings and lectures on the social construction of sexuality. Tiefer's background as a sexologist is unusually broad, including rodent copulation research, sex therapy, classification of dysfunctions and feminist analysis. Her wit and passion are evident in such essays as "The Kiss," "Advice to the Lovelorn," "Sexual Biology and the Symbolism of the Natural," "In Pursuit of the Perfect Penis: The Medicalization of Male Sexuality," and "New Perspectives in Sexology: From Rigor (Mortis) to Richness," and they all add up to a lively, controversial presentation of the forces shaping sex in our culture. As Tiefer provocatively states toward the end of her introduction to Part 1, "A kiss is not a kiss;… your orgasm is not the same as George Washington's, premarital sex in Peru is not premarital sex in Peoria, abortion in Rome at the time of Caesar is not abortion at the time of John Paul II, and rape is neither an act of sex nor an act of violence- all of these actions remain to be defined by individual experience within one's period and culture." This book explores sex and its "experts" in colorful, original, and perceptive ways.


We are just at the beginning, I think, of an explosion of fascinating new theory and research about human sexuality, new ideas that will fully take into account the social culture within which each person becomes sexual. My work, preliminary to these insights, has been to analyze and critique the prevailing biomedical and masculinist paradigm dominant in sexology. I believe that this new paradigm, let's call it social constructionism although it goes by various names, is well launched and will provide a more humane and complete successor. But I'm wary of counting the chickens too soon, and so I publish this collection of essays to help hasten the demise of the bio- medical approach.

I'm having a strange career--that of a sexologist. It's not the sort of thing you can just study, get a degree in, get hired to do, and do, at least not yet, not in the United States. And it's certainly not the sort of thing you can do without having to deal with other people's projections of what a life spent studying sexuality is all about!

I've learned about human sexuality from my life and my friends' lives, of course, and from reading, writing, and working at various jobs over the past thirty years. Where do you work as a sexologist? I have taught sexuality courses for graduate students and undergraduates as well as medical and nursing students, given many public and professional lectures, evaluated almost 2,000 patients with sexual complaints, provided sex therapy and psychotherapy for many individuals and couples, attended endless research and clinical conferences, conducted laboratory sex research with hamsters and rats, conducted questionnaire and follow-up research with patients, written dozens of articles and one previous book, participated in scientific and humanities sexuality study groups, briefly written columns for magazines and newspapers, and for years and years catalogued newspaper and magazine articles on sexuality in scores of manila folders in a ramshackle collection of filing cabinets in my New York apartment!

Although I earned a Ph.D. in physiological psychology in 1969 from the . . .

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