Studying sexualities for a better world? Ten years of Sexualities.
Plummer, K. (2008). Studying sexualities for a better world? Ten years of Sexualities. Sexualities, 11(1-2), 7-22.
This article begins the 10-year anniversary issue of Sexualities. In it, Plummer frames the state of sexualities research in the early 2000s, and reviews the topics and methods that articles from Sexualities have contributed to sexualities research (in sociology, at least) over the last ten years. In doing so, Plummer not only tracks what the journal – the flagship journal of sexualities research in sociology – has added to the field of sexuality studies, he also highlights important directions for future research.
In the qualitative spirit of the journal, Plummer eschews quantitative methods during his review of the last 10 years’ worth of Sexualities articles, and instead engages in “immersing, pondering, thinking a lot, and feeling [his] . . . way into the articles” (p. 11). Plummer notes that the topics (e.g., pornographies and erotica, Viagra), methods (e.g., interviews, photographic essays), and countries (e.g., Sweden, Japan) of investigation among the articles in Sexualities are diverse and have often contributed to defining several areas of sexual politics (e.g., the politics of bodies, the politics of emotions). However, Plummer suggests that there are still a number of areas (as of 2008) that warrant more attention and development in sexuality studies. For example, Plummer suggests that there is a need for more examination of sexual practices across class lines (e.g., what do sexuality look like among the impoverished), among the elderly, within cyberspace (e.g. cyber-sex, online dating and hooking ups), and within the intersections of different cultures (e.g. how sexual cultural practices from different cultures interact).
This article offers a relatively exhaustive overview of the progress of sexualities literature, but also because it highlights its gaps (as of 2008). Notably, despite progress in sexuality studies, which has shed light upon previously (unspeakably) taboo areas such as sado-masochism, pregnant bodies and sexuality, there are a number of dimensions of difference that still need to be examined. Particularly, Plummer notes that despite progress in sexualities, which has addressed a number of areas of relative silence (such as the topics of male rape and female exhibitionism), some basic axes of difference, such as age and class, are still under-discussed – at least as of 2008. In this sense, Plummer’s essay can be read as a call for a deeper consideration of intersectional theory and methods in the sociology of sexuality. In the spirit of pioneering a better understanding of sexualities, Plummer suggests that it is important to examine such sites of difference with a continued commitment to qualitative stories and narratives. For, in a world of increasing intercultural connections, Plummer suggests that it is the (sexual) stories of other people that can help foster significant empathy and understanding between them.