Bisexuality in the United States: A Social Science Reader. (Book reviews: a world of its own--not the best of both worlds).
Bisexuality in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. : A Social Science Reader. Edited by Paula C. Rodriguez Rust. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Columbia University Press Columbia University Press is an academic press based in New York City and affiliated with Columbia University. It is currently directed by James D. Jordan (2004-present) and publishes titles in the humanities and sciences, including the fields of literary and cultural studies, , 1999, 659 pages. Paper, $27.50.
Reviewed by Salvador Vidal-Ortiz, MA, Graduate Center, City University of New York The City University of New York (CUNY; acronym: IPA pronunciation: [kjuni]), is the public university system of New York City. , Department of Sociology Noun 1. department of sociology - the academic department responsible for teaching and research in sociology
academic department - a division of a school that is responsible for a given subject , 365 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10016; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a compilation of articles written from the 1970s to the 1990s, this reader offers an historical perspective on the social science treatment of bisexuality. I will focus my review on the new material, which consists of the introduction and each of the opening chapters of the book sections written by Rodriguez Rust. (These new sections account for about half of the book's content.)
Rodriguez Rust reviewed and included almost "every scholarly journal article listed in sociological and psychological databases whose title or abstract includes the word bisexual" (p. xv) and which reports research conducted or published in the United States, resulting in more than 1,000 references. Thus, this comprehensive review process positions the book as a unique resource for scholars interested in sociological and social science views on bisexuality, both behaviorally and in terms of self-identification. It can also serve as a primary text for courses in sexuality that seek to de-center homosexuality as the focal point focal point
See focus. of analysis when considering sexual orientation sexual orientation
The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes, especially a direction seen to be dictated by physiologic rather than sociologic forces. .
What constitutes bisexuality is itself a central topic to the study of sexual attractions, and Rodriguez Rust is not afraid to demonstrate the complexities of the term's use as well as the variability of bisexualities. She often detaches the discussion from the bisexual individual and moves toward the acts, emotions, and sexual behaviors commonly known as bisexuality. In doing so, she makes clear the problems in designating and articulating a term that appropriately encompasses sexual behavior, erotic drives, affections, and self-identifications.
That researchers use myriad ways of defining bisexuality is also a critical point in Rodriguez Rust's review of the literature. Dualistic du·al·ism
1. The condition of being double; duality.
2. Philosophy The view that the world consists of or is explicable as two fundamental entities, such as mind and matter.
3. understandings of sexuality have an effect on the ways in which bisexualities are sustained, often rendering them invisible. The new chapters effectively highlight the pressures for bisexuals to "define" themselves according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. polarized A one-way direction of a signal or the molecules within a material pointing in one direction. sexual models that privilege heterosexuality het·er·o·sex·u·al·i·ty
Erotic attraction, predisposition, or sexual behavior between persons of the opposite sex.
heterosexuality and homosexuality, perhaps because bisexuality is potentially threatening to the stability of both heterosexuality and homosexuality. As Rodriguez Rust states, "Bisexuals were psychologically and socially threatening to lesbians and gay men because they blurred the distinction between straight and lesbian/gay, thus undermining the basis for lesbian and gay identities and quasi-ethnic lesbian and gay political movements" (p. 541).
Rodriguez Rust discusses differences on the basis for attractions among bisexuals and non-bisexuals. She claims that "although heterosexuality and homosexuality are necessarily defined in terms of attraction based on partner sex or gender, bisexuality need not be so defined; attraction to an individual that is not based on that individual's biological sex is, therefore, most accurately described as bisexual" (p. 228). However, it becomes more difficult to establish ways in which sexual orientation is to be conceptualized by social scientists, once that referent is thrown away and an attempt is made to determine what bisexuality is by focusing on what it is not.
Why is a person's sexual orientation defined by the genitalia genitalia /gen·i·ta·lia/ (jen?i-tal´e-ah) [L.] the reproductive organs.
ambiguous genitalia of his or her partner? If we were to change the basis of that model, one would ask: Could it be that one finds attractive someone else's skin color, their body shape, some specific conception of beauty, their age, their socio-economic status, their levels of masculinity and/or femininity, or their pleasure preferences (sexual or nonsexual)? In terms of age differences, for example, Rodriguez Rust went as far as to say, "Youth are culturally constructed as innocent; research on their sexuality, especially their same-sex activities, would challenge this cherished view" (p. 238). Whether age attraction can be compared to sexual orientation is a relevant issue, as others have equated this kind of attraction to an "erotic orientation" (Rubin, 1992). Rodriguez Rust also mentions that there are some nongender markers in action when "prostitutes rate customers as more or less desirable on the basis of homosexual interest ... on the part of the prostitute" (p. 282) and focus less on the genitalia of the clients. Thus, these two illustrations are significant when critiquing the current, static basis of sexual orientation categories.
This analysis can be strengthened with gender identity discussions that relate bisexuality to the experiences of transgender transgender or transgendered
Transsexual. and transsexual trans·sex·u·al
A person who strongly identifies with the opposite gender and who chooses to live as a member of the opposite gender or to become one by surgery.
1. Of or relating to such a person.
2. individuals. Transgenderism Transgenderism is a social movement seeking transgender rights and affirming transgender pride. More recently, the term has also been used as a synonym for postgenderism, a social philosophy which seeks the voluntary elimination of gender in the human species through the is not considered a sexual orientation but an identity related to self-perceptions of gender. However, it has strong connections with bisexuality: like the latter, it can disrupt gender and sexual categories. The lack of connection to transgenderism as a sexual-orientation-destabilizing category (even bisexuality) almost escapes the text. One can ask several questions about transgender sexuality and gender identity. For instance, how would one define a relationship in which a Male-to-Female (MtF) transgender individual is having sex with a Female-to-Male (FtM) transsexual? What if an FtM is having sex with a nontranssexual man who is attracted to men? What markers--genitalia, gender identity, sexual acts, fantasies, day-today gender expression--will be useful in discussing transgenders' sexual orientation? Bisexuality--as measured by self-identity, sexual behavior, self-concept, and attractions or erotic feelings--has yet to be thoroughly explored and documented in the lives of transgender people The people on this list have been selected because their fame or notoriety is in some way due or connected to their transgender identity or behaviour. Each person in this list has hir own Wikipedia article, where each subject can be studied in much greater detail. . At the same time, the experiences of transgenders and transsexuals can offer much to the debates over utilizing, reforming, or doing away with sexual orientation categories.
Another of the remarkable aspects of this book is Rodriguez Rust's willingness to critically discuss race and ethnicity within analyses of sexuality; very few scholars take seriously the question of interesectionality. Ethnic minority groups were not discussed exclusively in a section or a chapter of the text, but throughout the book, which challenges the so-called "race week" when teaching sexuality courses. Rodriguez Rust's commitment to dispose of To determine the fate of; to exercise the power of control over; to fix the condition, application, employment, etc. of; to direct or assign for a use.
See also: Dispose ethnocentric eth·no·cen·trism
1. Belief in the superiority of one's own ethnic group.
2. Overriding concern with race.
eth language on race is evident; for example, she is critical of dualities like White and non-White, and replaces them with focus on specific ethnic minority populations, and political terms encompassing these, such as "people of color Noun 1. people of color - a race with skin pigmentation different from the white race (especially Blacks)
people of colour, colour, color
race - people who are believed to belong to the same genetic stock; "some biologists doubt that there are important ."
In addition, Rodriguez Rust is very vocal about how certain panethnicities (Espiritu, 1992; Flores Flores, town, Guatemala
Flores (flōrəs), town (1990 est. pop. 2,200), capital of Petén department, N Guatemala. Flores was built on an island in the southern part of Lake Petén Itzá and on the site of the , 2000) such as "Hispanic" work to the detriment of social sciences' analyses of facial and ethnic groups, although at times it seems as if she forgets this and lumps all Latinos into Mexican-specific research. Moreover, in describing cultural experiences and sexual activity, she categorizes East Asian and Latin cultures--even though she recognizes regional or national differences--as having specific traits; in this case, the role in the sexual act as opposed to the sex of the sexual partner. Using these simple cultural markers leaves much room for interpretation of "Otherness oth·er·ness
The quality or condition of being other or different, especially if exotic or strange: "We're going to see in Europe ... ," complicating any analysis on race and sexual behavior. It also erases the impact American gay movements have had in developing gay identities among people of color.
Like many of us in academia, Rodriguez Rust struggles with the current multicultural forces that require writers to acknowledge "different" cultures as radically different from mainstream ones. These forces also give unbalanced responsibility to the "different" communities to self-define, which often occurs in opposition to and as an act of resistance against people in the center. As much as I agree with Rodriguez Rust that more focused research on the sexualities of different specific populations is needed, I fear that these results will be used to stereotype given populations, by following the same ethnic model of difference that perpetuates Otherness.
A case in point is Rodriguez Rust's discussion of HIV HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), either of two closely related retroviruses that invade T-helper lymphocytes and are responsible for AIDS. There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is responsible for the vast majority of AIDS in the United States. risk and sexual behavior. According to her, the study of HIV by race and ethnicity is motivated in part by the different rates of HIV infection in all racial groups: Culturally based preferences for particular sex acts affect the sexual practices of given groups. This kind of analysis does not recognize structural forces that have had an impact on the higher rates of HIV exposure in certain ethnic minority communities in the first place. Instead, this thinking pathologizes minority cultures by demarcating a center (American culture) and the ethnic margins. An expected outcome is the need for cultural interventions to fix what is perceived to be the problem--namely, a person of color's culture (see Cantu, 2000). However, Rodriguez Rust recognizes the pitfalls in HIV prevention awareness for bisexuals of color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.
See also: Color , in that these messages come mostly from a "gay community that is predominantly white in composition, culture, and socio-political concerns" (p. 373). A step forward is to acknowledge discrimination and racism from within gay communities as part of the problem in HIV prevention of men of color (Diaz, Ayala, Bein, Henne, & Marin, 2001).
The editorial chapters frame the selected readings in a masterful way. These are, by themselves, a great resource for teaching and studying various aspects of bisexuality, which include (in addition to the previously mentioned) etiology and biology's relationship to bisexuality, developmental theories of sexual identity, and a critique to monosexuality. In addition, the reader will find sufficient information to comfortably address issues such as situational homosexuality (e.g., same-sex sexual activities in prisons), sex work, and the development of a gay and lesbian community that at times recognizes but often struggles with whether to include bisexual and transgender people. The text is remarkably balanced between research on women's and men's bisexuality, an often difficult task due to almost two decades of biased focus on HIV prevention research and bisexual men.
The book is also very interdisciplinary, but Rodriguez Rust's training in sociology is salient. In articulating the complexity of sexuality, Rodriguez Rust establishes links to social psychological and structural analyses--two main models of sociological thought--when explaining identity and self-identity. In addition, she does not limit discussions of behavior to the psychological realm, thus allowing the analysis not to be based on the individual but on the circumstances, social and sexual relations sexual relations
1. Sexual intercourse.
2. Sexual activity between individuals. , and patterns of like individuals. One of the most significant outcomes of this book is that the literature review transforms the unit of analysis from individual sexual behavior to that of the sexual relationship.
One criticism of the book is that the research reviewed is overwhelmingly objective, thereby ignoring the personal accounts and meanings of bisexuality for those who self-identify. This is troubling in that Rodriguez Rust, by choosing between methodologies, obscures the richness of ethnographic and phenomenological accounts of the study of bisexuality, and adds to the perception that sociologists struggle to make the field legitimate through statistical analyses. The choice for statistical methodology also follows political attempts of mainstream lesbian and gay groups who struggle with the numbers game to prove that they have a significant constituency.
Rodriguez Rust's work stands as a test to methodological detail and inquiry, and her efforts to corroborate To support or enhance the believability of a fact or assertion by the presentation of additional information that confirms the truthfulness of the item.
The testimony of a witness is corroborated if subsequent evidence, such as a coroner's report or the testimony of other many of the statistical findings paid off in the overall result of the book. With an unusual interdisciplinary perspective to the study of bisexuality, a balance between research and sexual politics, and a commitment to addressing the question of intersectionality, Bisexuality in the United States will prove to be an excellent reader for students, teachers, and researchers alike.
Cantu, L. (2000). Entre hombres/between men: Latino masculinities and homosexualities. In P. Nardi (Ed.), Gay masculinities (pp. 224-246). Thousand Oaks Thousand Oaks, residential city (1990 pop. 104,352), Ventura co., S Calif., in a farm area; inc. 1964. Avocados, citrus, vegetables, strawberries, and nursery products are grown. , CA: Sage.
Diaz, R. M., Ayala, G., Bein, E., Henne, J., & Marin, B. V. (2001). The impact of homophobia, poverty, and racism on the mental health of gay and bisexual Latino men: Findings from 3 US cities. American Journal of Public Health The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) is a peer reviewed monthly journal of the American Public Health Association (APHA). The Journal also regularly publishes authoritative editorials and commentaries and serves as a forum for the analysis of health policy. , 91, 927-932.
Espiritu, Y. L. (1992). Asian American A·sian A·mer·i·can also A·sian-A·mer·i·can
A U.S. citizen or resident of Asian descent. See Usage Note at Amerasian.
A pan-ethnicity: Bridging institutions and identities. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Flores, J. (2000). From bomba to hip-hop: Puerto Rican Puer·to Ri·co
Abbr. PR or P.R.
A self-governing island commonwealth of the United States in the Caribbean Sea east of Hispaniola. culture and Latino identity. New York: Columbia University Press.
Rubin, G. (1992). "Thinking sex: Notes for a radical theory of the politics of sexuality." In H. Abelove, M. Aina Barale, & D. M. Halperin (Eds.), The gay and lesbian studies reader (pp. 3-44). New York: Routledge.