Tag Archives: sex: sex work

Why Did Doctors Stop Giving Women Orgasms?

In her provocative book, The Technology of Orgasm, Rachel Maines discusses a classic medical treatment for the historical diagnosis of “hysteria”: orgasm administered by a physician.

Maines explains that manual stimulation of the clitoris was, for some time, a matter-of-fact part of medical treatment and a routine source of revenue for doctors. By the 19th century, people understood that it was an orgasm, but they argued that it was “nothing sexual.” It couldn’t “be anything sexual,” Maines explains, “because there’s no penetration and, so, no sex.”

So, what ended this practice? Maines argues that it was the appearance of the vibrator in early pornographic movies in the 1920s.  At which point, she says, doctors “drop it like a hot rock.” Meanwhile, vibrators become household appliances, allowing women to treat their “hysteria” at home. It wasn’t dropped from diagnostic manuals until 1957.

Listen to it straight from Maines in the following 7 minutes from Big Think:

Bonus: Freud was bad at this treatment, so he had to come up with some other cause of hysteria. After all, she says, “this was the guy who didn’t know what women wanted.” No surprise there, she jokes.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

“Rental Dreads”: Female Sex Tourists in the Caribbean

Flashback Friday.

While preparing a lecture on sex tourism, I ran across this video about men who have sex with female tourists in the Caribbean:

There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on there, no? I was fascinated by the female hotel owner who talks about the men “preying” on the female tourists, clearly placing the power in the hands the men who, she argues, use the female tourists for money but don’t really care about them. I tried to imagine someone talking similarly about female sex workers “preying” on foreign men’s need for affection and attention.

This might make for a great discussion about perceptions of sexual agency: how do gendered sexual norms, economic differences, and the different races and nationalities of the individuals involved affect how we think of their interactions and who we see as the victim?

In her chapter on sex tourism in Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality), sociologist Joane Nagel discusses the role of racialized sexualities in making some groups attractive tourists looking for an ethnosexual adventure. In the Caribbean, dark-skinned men with dreads are particularly attractive to some female tourists because of stereotypes of Black men as extremely sexual and masculine, which plays into fantasies of being swept away by a strong, skilled lover. At the same time, White Western women may represent the possibility of a better life (through continued gifts of money even after the vacation is over) and sexualized adventures to the men they sleep with while on vacation. Nagel argues that these encounters generally reinforce, rather than challenge, existing racial and gender inequalities, since they play on stereotypes of sexualized Others as animalistic, primitive, and, in the case of men, as super-masculine (and super-endowed).

Then again, Nagel also questions whether any relationship between tourists and “local” men should count as sex work. The individuals involved don’t necessarily think of their interactions in those terms. And who is to decide if a particular situation is “sex tourism” as opposed to a “real” relationship? How does that assumption invalidate the possibility that Black men and White women might have real, meaningful relationships? Or primarily sexual relationships, but with both partners respecting the other?

Originally posted in 2009.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

The Baby Dolls of Mardi Gras

Prostitutes have often been at the forefront of challenges to gender conventions. Already at the fringes of “respectable society,” by choice or circumstance, these women often have less to lose than others.

The Mardi Gras Baby Dolls are an excellent example.  NPR’s Tina Antolini writes that the baby doll tradition began in 1912.  That year a group of African American sex workers dressed up like baby dolls and took to the streets to celebrate Mardi Gras.

Baby dolls, 1930s (CNN):

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Baby dolls, 1942:
babydolls1

Calling your lover “baby” had just become part of the English language.  Meanwhile, actual baby dolls, the toy, were rare.  By dressing up this way, they flouted both gender and race rules.  Women were largely excluded from masking for Mardi Gras and African Americans were still living under Jim Crow.  Black women, by virtue of being both Black and female, were particularly devalued, sex workers ever more so.  Asserting themselves as baby dolls, then, was a way of arguing that they were worth something.

“[I]t had all that double meaning in it,” explains historian Kim Vaz, “because African-American women weren’t considered precious and doll-like.”

It was a bold thing to do and the Baby Dolls carried walking sticks with them to beat off those who accosted them.

Today, honoring those brave women that came before, the tradition lives on in a city with the richest and most creative and unique traditions I have ever encountered.  Happy Mardi Gras, Baby Dolls!  Have a wonderful day tomorrow!

babydolls_2013

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For more, visit They Call Me Baby Doll.  Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Is Religion Secularizing? Trends in Opposition to Pornography

The term secularization is typically used to describe the process by which something becomes increasingly distant from, irrelevant to, or uninfluenced by religion.  But what about religions themselves?  Can religions undergo secularization?

Sociologist Jeremy Thomas tested this proposition, looking at changes in how authors writing for the popular magazine Christianity Today frame their opposition to the use of pornography between 1956 and 2010 (article, summary).  He compared three anti-pornography frames:

  • religious (e.g., against the bible, a sin),
  • harm to others (e.g., performers), and
  • harm to self (e.g., porn addiction, marital troubles).

Thomas found that the last frame — harm to self — had increasing come to dominate the discussion at Christianity Today.  This figure shows the proportion of paragraphs that make each argument.  The last frame clearly dominates.

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Thomas calls this “outsourcing moral authority”: religious leaders are relying on other authorities to back up their points of view.  This suggests that even religion is undergoing secularization.

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

What Do Sexy Halloween Costumes for Men Look Like?

In many parts of the Western world, Halloween (for adult women, and increasingly for girls too) has morphed into an opportunity or imperative to dress sexy.  These costumes for women and girls are par for the course, where men usually go for scary, funny, or creative.  Brandi H., however, found a link to “sexy costumes for men” at msn.com that claims “There are sexy options for men, too.”

Let’s take a look.  While women’s sexy costumes are typically decidedly sexy (tight with lots of exposed skin), these men’s “sexy” costumes are simply suggestive.  In two cases, they “suggest” that men should be sexually serviced or played with (the “breathalyzer” and the “ring toss”):

In a third, the joke is that he is a perfect candidate for casual sex (the “one night stand”):

In a fourth, the costume is simply sexy because it’s related to (stereotypes) about prostitution (the “hustler”):

So, when women go sexy for Halloween, it usually means being seen as a sex object for others.  When men go sexy, it means joking about how men should be sexually serviced, have access to one night stands, or being in charge of and profiting from women’s bodies.  A different type of “sexy” entirely.

The other two costumes are simply non-sensical in context.  I suppose policemen (and men in uniform in general) are supposed to be sexy in American culture.  And I guess bunnies are related to Playboy bunnies?  But the costume certainly misses the mark.

Cross-posted at Ms.; originally posted in 2010.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Course Guide: Sociology of Work

Course Guide for
SOCIOLOGY OF WORK
(last updated 9/2014)

Developed by Lisa Wade
Occidental College

Disclaimer: I am not a sociologist of work.  If you are, I would love to see someone take a more expert crack at this.  Please feel free to volunteer!

The Social Construction of Work

Work in Popular Culture

Unemployment, Underemployment, and the “Class War”

Unions and Unionization

Economic Change, Globalization, and the Great Recession

Gender and Work

Work and Racial, Ethnic, and National Identity

The U.S. in International Perspective

Specific Occupations

Flight Attendants

Sex Workers

Academia

Just for Fun

Updated Sep 2, 2014, at 3:30am

Your Brain on Porn

In this short video, Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown of AsapSCIENCE discuss the neurological processes behind porn addiction. High levels of porn consumption, they argue, can create a feedback loop that molds sexual desires and behaviors.

Looking at porn, then, doesn’t just reflect a person’s existing desires and preferences; it’s a mechanism for creating new ones or channeling them in particular directions. This is the problem critics such as Cindy Gallop see with the narrow, unrealistic (and often violently misogynistic) set of messages about sexuality that porn offers us.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Secrets of the Internet Adult Film Database

John Millward, a self-described “ideas detective,” has done something intriguing.  He cracked the Internet Adult Film Database (IAFD) and used a sample of 10,000 porn stars to tell a story about porn.  Here are some of his findings.

Demographics

The average female porn star, he discovered, was 5’5″ and weighed 117 pounds.  She doesn’t have a double-D bra size; she’s a 34B.  And she’s not blonde:

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She’s also not disproportionately white.  Millward found that the racial breakdown among porn actresses somewhat matched U.S. population demographics:

    Race                             % of actresses                     % of the population

  • White                            70.5                                       78.1
  • Black                              14.0                                       13.1
  • Latina                              9.3                                       16.7
  • Asian                               5.2                                         5.0
  • American Indian        no data                                        1.2

Career

The average woman begins her career at 22.  This has been unchanged for the last 40 years.  The average age for men was 29 in the ’70s, but it’s dropped to 24.  Careers were longer in the ’70s.  Men quite after 12 years, women after nine.  Today men quit, on average, after four years and women after three.

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Interestingly, success for male porn stars is much more concentrated than for female.  There are fewer of them (70% of all porn stars are women) and they’re less interchanged.  Millward reports that 96 of the most prolific porn stars of all time — measured by number of films — are men.  Women, on average, do fewer films each.  Just over half (53%) do three or more.

Content

The IAFD records all of the sex acts that actors do on film.  Accordingly to Millward’s analysis, this is what actresses do:

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And here are the roles they play:

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Wives in porn, by the way, are not typically having sex with their husbands.

For more data porn, visit Millward’s site.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.