This book explores the political and religious languages of sexual morality, and how they both intertwined and diverged around the AIDS epidemic durinThis book explores the political and religious languages of sexual morality, and how they both intertwined and diverged around the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s and early 1990s. While Petro resists a simplistic narrative of right-wing, conservative (and homophobic) religious responses to AIDS, taking care to document more sex-positive responses, the political takeaway of this history is that sexual conservatism won in the face of moral panic and the fear of a newly-recognized and fatal disease. While early responses to the virus ranged across the spectrum of sexual morality, by the turn of the 20th century a conservative sexual ethic of monogamy and marriage had become the primary public health response to AIDS across the globe. Religious responses to AIDS, and their adaptation in the nominally secular realm of public health demonstrates how morality continues to be a central discourse in the debate over who gets to be a sexual citizen. Petro's book is a well-researched contribution to a rapidly-expanding bookshelf of texts exploring the intersection of sexuality and religion in the recent American past....more
Review forthcoming in Library Journal. Psychologist Corbett bears witness to the trial of Brandon McInerney for the murder of junior high school classReview forthcoming in Library Journal. Psychologist Corbett bears witness to the trial of Brandon McInerney for the murder of junior high school classmate Larry/Leticia King, exploring the psychological and social fault-lines of masculinity, racism, and anxieties around gender and sexual expression. Absent the voices of the two main players -- Leticia/Larry was dead and Brandon McInerney never told his own story in court or elsewhere --Corbett is left to piece together the psychology of McInerney's act and how the survivors made sense of it through trial testimony and interviews he conducted with many key players (adults and teens alike). This is a difficult read, with no easy resolution -- no ending to the story, after all, can bring the murdered child back from the dead. Particularly upsetting was the way in which McInerney's actions were normalized, even justified, in both the trial setting and within the community as an expected -- if extreme -- response to Larry/Leticia's explorations of a nascent transgender and/or queer self. The events of this story, taking place between roughly 2008-2011, remind us that despite increased acceptance of (certain kinds of) gender and sexual variance in mainstream society, the majority of Americans are still extremely uncomfortable with non-normative gender expression, perhaps particularly in school settings, and that their discomfort places queer, particularly black and brown, children at daily risk of violence....more
Review forthcoming in Library Journal. A well-researched, sex-positive account of the heteronormative culture in which adolescent girls are exploringReview forthcoming in Library Journal. A well-researched, sex-positive account of the heteronormative culture in which adolescent girls are exploring their sexuality -- and the absolutely dismal mess adults have made in providing useful resources for pleasure. My major beef is that every few years a book like this comes out centering girls/women ... and a few years later the situation has barely budged. I don't think that will change until we stop assuming we know what boys/men desire, how they experience pleasure, and why they behave the way they do. I'm always glad to talk about "girls and sex" and queer sexuality but we need to start talking about "PEOPLE and sex," explicitly including cis male-bodied people in that conversation or the toxic soup of heternormativity will remain strong. That's not the book Orenstein set out to write ... but I'd love to see someone take up the challenge soon....more
Review forthcoming at MedHum Fiction | Daily Dose. This is an intellectual and social history of the idea of masturbation ("the solitary vice") and thReview forthcoming at MedHum Fiction | Daily Dose. This is an intellectual and social history of the idea of masturbation ("the solitary vice") and the place of anti-masturbation rhetoric in sexual politics and sexuality education in mid-nineteenth century America. Focusing on the 1830-50s, April Haynes considers the place of anti-masturbation advice within the larger contexts of reform physiology, women's rights, and racial politics. With particular and skillful attention to the intersection of race and gender, Haynes considers how female activists used the specter of masturbation and (white and black) women's capacity for sexual self-control as one piece of their campaign for (sexual) citizenship. Beginning at an interracial moment within Evangelical reform circles, anti-masturbation activism eventually went mainstream in ways that replicated racial, gender, and class hierarchies in the form of white, elite women policing the bodies of marginalized populations -- youth, patients, prisoners, the poor. Documenting a little-studied chapter in the history of American sexual politics, Haynes work is perhaps most startling in how contemporary the political fault-lines she charts sometimes seem. Today, just as in the 1830s, Americans remain uncomfortable with expressions of sexual citizenship that fall outside the bounds of white, cisgendered heternormative partnership. The borderlands of that healthy sexuality may have shifted and expanded slightly, but our sexual fears have remained soberingly stable over nearly two centuries of social agitation....more
Corey arrives on campus for her first year at a prestigious East Coast school hoping to escape her parents' hovering concern. An athlete whose fall onCorey arrives on campus for her first year at a prestigious East Coast school hoping to escape her parents' hovering concern. An athlete whose fall on the ice has left her with a spinal cord injury and in need of a wheelchair, Corey ends up in an accessible suite across the hall from a fellow hockey player, Adam, whose drunken pre-season antics have left him with a broken leg. The two of them bond over physical therapy sessions and Hockey video games while Adam's girlfriend is studying abroad in France. Y'all know what happens eventually. Conveniently incompatible partners are incompatible and the OTP ends up together by the final page. With some fairly sweet sexytimes on the way by. Now I just hope Corey's roommate Dana finds a nice dyke in book two....more
Review for this will be forthcoming at The Daily Dose. Suffice to say for now I really enjoyed her push back against the "born this way" naturalizatioReview for this will be forthcoming at The Daily Dose. Suffice to say for now I really enjoyed her push back against the "born this way" naturalization of gay and straight sexual desires. She's also doing extremely thoughtful intersectional work around race and gender within hetero- and homo- normative cultures that persistently marginalize unruly queer sexualities....more
The Sex Myth is a book-length work of well-researched journalism, drawing from various disciplines — history, philosophy, psychology, sexology, sociolThe Sex Myth is a book-length work of well-researched journalism, drawing from various disciplines — history, philosophy, psychology, sexology, sociology — as well as personal narratives gleaned from those one-to-one interviews to explicate what Hills refers to as The Sex Myth. The Sex Myth is the dual narrative of sexual performance and sexual purity that exerts normative pressure on us all to put an inordinate amount of energy and effort into our sexual selves while simultaneously making being sexual appear natural, effortless, and flawless. We are encouraged to imagine sex is spontaneous and authentic, an ultimate expression of liberation, at the same time that we scrutinize and judgmentally regulate human sexual behavior at every turn. We’re encouraged to be sexually “free” and “liberated” on the one hand while being handed a very specific playbook full of stage directions on the other.
...Cultural narratives are only as strong as we allow them to be. We must — individually and together — accept and replicate them, meme-style, in order for them to develop and maintain their social relevancy. If The Sex Myth helps dislodge The Sex Myth from its paramount place in our shared discourse around sex and relational sexual intimacy, then I’m grateful for its existence in the world even if it doesn’t particularly speak to me. My hope is that it will speak to many people who aren’t me, and encourage them to speak up and reject the stories that aren’t working in their own sexual lives — and start telling some that will work better instead.