Some nice work of my own: The second edition of The Gender of Sexuality: Exploring Sexual Possibilities is out!  Pepper Schwartz and I wrote it in the 1990s, and revising it focused our attention on how sex has changed in a decade+. Here are three examples:

In 2012, same-sex marriage rights have changed dramatically. In 1998, we thought that same-sex marriage was here to stay in the U.S…. but noted that much of the population wasn’t going to like it. At the time, Hawaii had had their flirtation with same-sex marriage rights, Vermont was working on theirs, and Pepper was busy testifying in a number of these cases. Today, a majority of the population believe same-sex marriage rights should be equivalent to cross-sex marriage rights, with each generation becoming increasingly accepting of marriage equality. Six states and the District of Columbia have marriage rights, yet 33 states have laws or constitutional amendments that are “Defense of Marriage Acts” asserting marriage must be between a male and female. The debates have continued to be ugly (such as the experience with Proposition 8 in California and the unspeakable and silly positions of our political candidates) but the change is definitive, and if we have a third edition down the road, I predict marriage equality will be law of the land.

In 2012, gender differences in sexual freedom have become a lot more subtle. In 1998 we said “the more things change the more they remain the same” with respect to gender. What we meant was that women had benefited a lot from the sexual revolution–and had an increased amount of sexual and social freedom relative to some remote past. So, by the 1990s, a young single woman’s (like a man’s) having ever had sex did not, in general, affect her reputation, but her having had, say, more than five partners was judged more harshly than a man’s being known to have done the same. Studies continue to show gender difference in sexual experience, but the numbers change and there is more diversity by subgroups. Think of the issue of pleasure. When we looked at research on hooking up from the past decade, studies showed how in college “hook ups” men were more likely to have an orgasm, or receive oral sex, if it is a first hook up. But as more hook ups occurred, women in such encounters experienced pleasure more often. Could be an issue of skills. Could be an issue of reticence. Things have changed. But the persistence of a gap has remained. I often write about how gender inequality is sneaky; part of the sneakiness is that sometimes when one gender gap narrows, a new one opens up….

In 2012, transgender statuses are much more in the public consciousness. In 1998, we gave the most sparing attention to transgender people and transgender experiences. A decade later, we were stunned to see this lapse in our own book. The transgender experience in the US and across the globe continues to be challenging. But transgender experience is no longer an “exotic outlier” that few people have heard about or recognize the value of understanding. The debate over rules in Canada’s “Passenger Protect” program (think U.S. “no fly” practices) that stipulate that people must appear to be the gender (by which they really mean “biological sex”) indicated on their identification makes the point. On the one hand this appears to be an insane regulation even for those who don’t strictly identify as transgender. It is particularly hostile to those who are transitioning, or who don’t intend to medically transition, but live as one gender while being another biological sex. On the other hand, the dialogue, which you can see in the Washington Post or Huffington Post or many blogs dedicated to trans themes, foregrounds a wider public consciousness (if not perfect understanding) of the issues than we saw in the 1990s.

And that is just the first couple of pages of the book! I hope you’ll check it out.

-Virginia Rutter