Here is a link to an interview I did for the online magazine Parent Insider about work-life balance:
I had a lovely time attending the Society for Disability Studies Conference in Atlanta, GA.
Here is a link to the poster I presented at the conference, “Rethinking Medical Approaches to Sexual Disinterest: A Disability Studies Perspective”:
Also, I picked up this great poster at the silent auction:
I was recently invited by Dr. Bella DePaulo to contribute a post about asexuality to her “Living Single” blog at Psychology Today.
Here is a link to my contribution, “So Long, Compulsory Sex! See Ya, Viagra! Asexuality is Here”:
Thank you to Dr. DePaulo for this opportunity!
The special issue of the journal Psychology and Sexuality on asexuality that I co-edited with Mark Carrigan and Todd Morrison was recently released as an edited collection, Asexuality and Sexual Normativity: An Anthology (2014), by Routledge.
The LSE Review of Books just published a favorable review of the book.
Not too long ago, I came across this news story about lab grown vaginas. Apparently, a team of researchers from the U.S. and Mexico grew vaginal organs in a lab for four teenage patients who had “underdeveloped” or absent vaginas.
The story raises interesting questions about whether this new medical technology will serve to enforce gender and sexual norms or whether it could serve to enable gender and sexual play; however I argue in this post that these questions are not all that easy to answer.
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I am happy to announce that the edited collection, Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives, has been published by Routledge. The volume is a wonderful collection of essays exploring the feminist and queer politics of asexuality. I have a chapter in the collection titled “Asexuality and Disability: Mutual Negation in Adams v. Rice and New Directions for Coalition Building.”
Here is a brief excerpt from the book description: “Together, these essays challenge the ways in which we imagine gender and sexuality in relation to desire and sexual practice. Asexualities provides a critical reevaluation of even the most radical queer theorizations of sexuality. Going beyond a call for acceptance of asexuality as a legitimate and valid sexual orientation, the authors offer a critical examination of many of the most fundamental ways in which we categorize and index sexualities, desires, bodies, and practices.”
For more information about the book, and to order, please visit the book page on the Routledge website.
If you are affiliated with a college or university, please ask your institutional library to purchase a copy for their collection. A library recommendation form is available here.
Thank you very much to the editors, Karli June Cerankowski and Megan Milks, for their hard work on this volume and for their leadership in the field of asexuality studies.
Pharmaceutical companies have been working for years in order to secure FDA-approval for Flibanserin, a drug intended to treat female desire disorders. Recently, there have been a number of new developments in the Flibanserin saga, involving drug companies, the FDA, feminist activists, and the media, which I analyze in this post. Here’s a quick preview of my judgment on each of these actors: pharmaceutical companies = profit driven (what else?); FDA = differential treatment of drugs for men vs. drugs for women; feminist activists = doing some good, but efforts have limitations; media = totally dropping the ball.
Background on the Flibanserin
Flibanserin is a drug that increases levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline and lowers levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It was originally developed and tested as a treatment for depression by the German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, but it was not found to be effective in treating depression.
In 2010, Boehringer Ingelheim applied to the FDA for approval for Flibanserin as a treatment for Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) in women. HSDD is defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-IV as “persistently or recurrently deficient or absent sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity” which must cause “marked distress or interpersonal difficulty” . In clinical trials, women diagnosed with HSDD who took Flibanserin reported an increase of around 2.5 “sexually satisfying events” per month, while women diagnosed with HSDD who took a placebo reported an increase of around 1.5 “sexually satisfying events” per month. The FDA panel that reviewed Boehringer Ingelheim’s application recommended against approving Flibanserin, citing modest benefits and long-term safety concerns (the transcript of the hearing is available online).
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It’s obvious that humans are unlike all animals. It’s also obvious that we’re a species of big mammal, down to the minutest details of our anatomy and molecules (Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee, 1).
While at Emory, I earned a graduate certificate in Mind, Brain, and Culture from the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture (CMBC). As part of the certificate program, the CMBC helped me to arrange a directed reading with Dr. Kim Wallen on the “behavioral neuroendocrinology of sex” in the spring of 2011. As part of the directed reading, Dr. Wallen asked me to write a paper reviewing any existing scientific research on “asexuality” in non-human animals. It was interesting for me, as a scholar in the humanities and social sciences, to think about how scientific research on a/sexuality in non-human animals might (or might not) have relevance for the study of human a/sexuality.
As I am not likely to do anything else with the paper, I finally decided to post a (somewhat) shortened version of it as a blog. I hope you enjoy!
Feminist and queer studies scholars have debated the question: can scientific studies investigating the sexuality of non-human animals teach us about human sexuality? Some, including Anne Fausto-Sterling and Jennifer Terry, critique the use of research on non-human animals to answer questions about human sexuality. Others, including Myra Hird and Elizabeth Wilson, argue that research on the sexuality of non-human animals can challenge assumptions about human sexuality in productive ways. This paper explores this question through examining whether scientific research on asexual phenomena (“asexuality”) in non-human animals can shed light on the phenomenon of asexuality in humans. I begin by reviewing the scientific research examining asexuality in non-human animals. Then, I explore three questions suggested by the scholarly debates outlined above: first, what (if any) insights about human asexuality are provided by the scientific research on “asexuality” in non-human animals? Second, how are cultural assumptions about sexuality shaping the research on “asexuality” in non-human animals? Finally, (how) does the research on “asexuality” in non-human animals challenge assumptions about human (a)sexuality?
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I am happy to report that my co-authored article with Thea Cacchioni, “Sexual improvement as if your health depends on it: An analysis of contemporary sex manuals,” has been published by Feminism & Psychology. In the article, we review seventeen U.S. sex manuals published between 2000 and 2010. We argue that in addition to positioning sexual activity as a biological, essential (albeit gendered) human need, and as the ultimate path to individual fulfillment and empowerment, a new rationale for the importance of sex (and working on sexual improvement) is now prominent in contemporary sex manuals. Reflecting the “healthicization” of sex in the post-Viagra era, authors frame frequent pleasurable sexual activity as an important factor in the maintenance of health and wellness, an argument that gives further weight to the importance of “sex work” as a fundamental aspect of particularly women’s work in heterosexual relationships.
In a previous post, “The Sex-Glutted Marriage: A Couple’s Guide to Reducing Their Marriage Libido,” I parodied what I still consider to be one of the worst manuals we reviewed, The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido: A Couple’s Guide by Michele Weiner Davis. This manual was relentless in promoting the idea that if one member of a couple is disinterested in sex, the relationship will inevitably fail; and, therefore, that person must do everything in her or his power to become more interested in sex.
In honor of our article coming out (and in case you are looking for gifts to give this holiday season), I decided to reveal which sex manuals I would actually recommend. The truth is, out of all the ones we reviewed (including several that were explicitly positioned as feminist and/or queer), the only one that I would really recommend is the Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides (I read the 6th edition). The reason why I would recommend this manual is, frankly, because it actually doesn’t give much in the way of advice. It’s really more of an encyclopedia of sex and sexuality (and, at 900+ pages, quite an extensive encyclopedia). Rather than implying that there is one right way to be sexual (or not), the book gives information about different sexual desires, practices, identities and other topics, and allows readers to decide what might work for them.
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In this short clip (filmed in the summer of 2013), I share my experience with the graduate certificate program offered by Emory’s Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture. The Center’s mission is “to foster inquiry, research, and teaching from multiple explanatory perspectives concerning issues and phenomena associated with mind, brain, and culture and their relations.”