About this blog: Sex in the Public Square is my home for thoughts and frustrations that don’t fit neatly into my other work. Yet.
The name suggests a couple of things to me. One thing it suggests is that we should encourage more public displays of sexuality. I think the more visible the real sexual diversity of our communities becomes, the better our chances at developing sensible policies around such vital issues as sex education, sex work, and civil rights. Another thing the name suggests to me is that sex is already a part of our public squares and our public discussions, and it’s important to talk about how those discussions are conducted. Often our discussions of sex-related issues disenfranchise or stigmatize groups of people because of their sexual behaviors, identitities or desires. One of my goals is to point out such instances and suggest alternative ways of talking about the same issues.
About me: I am a sex-radical, feminist sociologist. (Sex-radical folks are those who begin with the assumption that no kind of consensual sex or gender identity should be stigmatized and that honest, clear information about sex — what people do, what it means to them, and how they think of themselves — is essential for healthy communities.) I like sex. I like talking about sex. I like hearing about other people’s sexual experiences. This is not purely intellectual. This is an integral part of who I am. That I have been able to incorporate these interests into my professional life is an enormous privilege!
I study sexuality in the United States broadly speaking. More specifically, I study sex-work, sexual identity and community, the commodification and consumption of sex and love. I have lots of related interests that touch on issues of sexuality, social justice, and commodification: human trafficking, internet communities, sex-radical social movements and other social movements aimed at achieving equality for people of all genders and orientations, intersections between race/ethnicity/class/gender. My research is primarily qualitative. (I love participant-observation and interview research).
I was born in Kentucky but moved from there before I could really develop any memories of the place, and have lived in eastern Massachusetts (several small, formerly industrial cities north, south, and west of Boston), Pennsylvania (suburbs north of Philadelphia), and New York (on a boat on the south shore of Long Island, and now in Queens). My partner grew up on a dairy farm in north western New York, and we visit there regularly. I have a real affinity for rural and urban settings, but a sort of intellectual fascination with the social structure and landscape of suburban sprawl.
As an undergraduate I majored in sociology because it seemed the best way to get at the social justice issues about which I was so passionate as an undergraduate, and about which I still care tremendously today. I stayed in school and earned a Ph.D. (Brandeis University, 1999) and became a professor because I loved college so much I couldn’t imagine living in any other world. I teach at a community college (Nassau Community College, a unit of the State University of New York) because it satisfies my need to continue working for social justice while residing in the intellectual and scholarly world of academia.
I invite you to engage in dialogue with me and with each other through these pages! (NOTE: Comments are moderated — in other words, I read them before I let them be posted — so they might take a little while to appear. This way I can filter out spam. I’m not otherwise editing or censoring for content.)
Elizabeth Anne Wood