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Sexuality 497 - reported(correctly or incorrectly that...

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Unformatted text preview: reported (correctly or incorrectly) that their children had less sexual experience (for example, sex play with other children and exposure to sexually explicit material) than mothers in Classes 2 and 3. Similarly, an American study of sexual behaviour and attitudes found that people from higher social classes and white men had greater access to sexual capital than black men and black women, white women, and men and women in lower classes (Gonzales and Rolison, 2005). Gonzales and Rolison found, among other things, that study respondents with higher socioeconomic status (SES) reported thinking about sex more frequently than other respondents. They also found that the higher a respondent’s SE3, the more frequently he or she reported masturbating and the more likely the individual was to report finding a significantly greater variety of sexual acts more appealing than others. Gonzales and Rolison con— cluded that sexual behaviour and attitudes in the US reflect patterns of dominance and inequality, and these ‘Structures of sexual inequality are enshrined in taken—for— granted American moral dispositions (ibid., 716). In other words, these differences reflect their position in a stratified society, and ‘private’ choice is conditioned by race, class, and gender dominance. The Chicago School In the first four decades of the twentieth century the Chicago School was famous for its sociological studies of the city. Sociologists such as Robert Park did extenr sive ethnographic research on urban life. When using the city as a natural laboratory, Park examined, among other things, vice districts, urban environments, and other social structures that produced unique sexual worlds. While Park, like many of his time, believed that sexuality and sex drives were biologically based, he nonetheless noted that they were shaped and con— strained by social forces. Interactiunist Sociology and Sexual Scripts John Gagnon and William Simon, both of whom trained at the University of Chicago and later worked at the Kinsey Institute (1965—8), have been identified as ‘fathers’ of the sociological study of sex in North Amer- ica. Going much further than Park, they openly chal» lenge the biological determinism of most sexologists, arguing that if sex does play an important part in shap- ing human affairs it is because societies have created its importance, not because of rigid biological grounding (Simon and Gagnon, 2003). For them, sex is neither a dangerous instinct that needs curbing nor a passionate impulse that needs liberating. They further argue that neither sexual activities not body parts are inherently sexual; rather they become sexual when social meanings are attributed to them. While sexual activity most often takes place in private settings, they argue that ‘the sexual encounter remains a profoundly social act in its enact- ment and even more so in its antecedents and conse- quences’ (ibid., 492). In other words, the language and actions that make up sexual encounters, and their rules, restrictions, and taboos, are socially constructed and part of socially defined sexual scripts or road maps for sexual activity (Gagnon and Simon, 1986). The script concept implies a complex construction of culturally defined socio—sexual roles. For example, while this may be changing (also evidence of the fact that these are con- structed roles), men are/have been expected to conduct themselves assertively and to make the first move, and women are/ have been expected to be passive, compliant, and more responsive as the interaction progresses. Scripts also include internal dialogues about desire and resistance (\Weis, 1998). Historical Socioiogy and Sex A number of sociologists have sought to understand sex and love in historical perspective, and, in doing so, have argued that sexual desire and intimate relations have not always been understood in the same way (Brickell, 2006). Researchers like Jeffrey Weeks (1993) have mapped the historical origins of sexual categories, subcultures, belief systems, and language to understand how we have arrived at social arrangements that prevail today. Particular emphasis has been placed on how sexual meanings have been negotiated within specific historical moments. One historical moment of significance, and focus of study in the West, is the sexual revolution of the 19605. Leisa Meyer (2006) notes that the history of sexuality was a subfield of the new social history that emerged in the 19605. This period was characterized by a cultural shift in attitudes, an increased ability to control repro— duction (legal changes and the introduction of the birth control pill), challenges to conventional definitions of masculinity and femininity, and the investigation of groups that had been little studied. This took place in a climate of change, marked by a new emphasis on ques— tions of power raised through the civil rights, anti-war, feminist, and other movements for social justice. Both Canada and the United States were seemingly becoming more sexually liberal, and the courts reflected some of this through more progressive rulings, for example, in ‘ “3031:5518!”le Sexuality ”.17 ' i ‘ ...
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