Shameless Propositions: Women's Sexuality and Theoretical Authority
Dr. Alice Adams has been working in both academia and the private sector to advance the understanding and maximize the effectiveness of sexuality and gender for over fifteen years. She served as Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program at the University of Maine, and has held Associate Professor positions at Macalester College and Miami University of Ohio, as well as being a former Bye-Fellow at Cambridge University, England, and winner of a Rockefeller Fellowship.
Adams is the author of two other gender-focused books: Reproducing the Womb (1994) and Playing to Strength (2009). Adams holds an MA in English and Communication from Southern Oregon State University and a PhD in English from the University of Iowa.
What if the search for the facts about sexuality couldn't uncover the truth? What if the familiar categories of sexual orientation are wrong more often than they're right?
What if the science of sexuality---the whole history of studies of hormones, DNA, brain anatomy, evolution, and psychology---didn't have the power to produce accurate representations of sexual orientation, desire, and deviance?
Shameless Propositions is a purposeful answer to perverse questions like these. Dr. Adams proposes giving more than lip service to the realization that our most authoritative ideas about the nature of human sexuality can't be teased apart from our longings, anxieties, unexamined assumptions, personal agendas, and moral prescriptions. Experts in diverse fields, including biomedicine, traditional psychoanalysis, feminist psychology, and queer theory have vied to formulate convincing accounts of what it is like to be sexed, gendered, and sexual. However, even well-conducted science and elegant critique cannot accommodate, let alone master, the subject of sexuality.
Why continue pursuing such a goal---the solution to the problem of categorizing sexualities and establishing their psychological or biological underpinnings---when the subject is always receding before our eyes?
The answers can be found by considering what the pursuit of answers accomplishes---socially, politically, psychologically, and professionally---for researchers, theorists, activists, and those whose sexual lives are under scrutiny. The ideas that rise to authority can benefit the careers and fulfill the moral aspirations of those who propose them. Most potently, truth claims lend a sense of destiny to otherwise unsettled sexual lives. Ultimately, however, the best ideas about the nature of sexuality are those that serve the interests of the people they are supposed to describe, whether those ideas validate or undermine conventional thinking. The success of those who have made the most daring attempts to rectify bad ideas, such as liberal feminists, proponents of gay and lesbian studies, and progressive scientists, has to be measured with a utilitarian rule. The best question is not "is it true?" but "what can you do with it?"
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