How men use, abuse, and misunderstand Sexual Capital

Lord Rennard


A couple of weeks ago I was listening to Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee discuss the recent political sex scandal in the UK where Lord Rennard – a Liberal Democrat peer and senior party grandee (picture above) – was accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate ‘groping’ of junior party members. Although cleared of criminal charges, the saga rolls on as the women still maintain their accusations of sexual impropriety against Rennard, which he denies and refuses to apologise for, and the party are trying to resolve the matter internally.

I don’t want to discuss this story directly, which has had plenty of column inches dedicated to it already, but something Toynbee said really made me stop and listen. She implied that Lord Rennard, being a ‘portly, elderly gentlemen’ only stood a chance with ‘younger, more attractive women’ because of his powerful position in the party and the professional favours he might be able to give them. Tonybee admitted that her column had received a lot of negative comments because she had dared to bring up Rennard’s appearance, but she remains defiant that physical attractiveness is part of the story here, because, as she said, only half-jokingly, “I wouldn’t put my hand on George Clooney’s knee – you kind of know your level”. When challenged that if Rennard had been more attractive, then what he had (allegedly) done would still have been unacceptable, she replied that there would be slightly more “equality” there, and that equality comes in all sorts of ways, including “physical attractiveness”. (more…)

The Rapist’s Voice




**Warning: This posting contains content some readers may find disturbing.

Recently, a student told me about a 2012 Reddit thread where a Reddit user invited rapists to tell their stories and the motives behind their sexual assault(s).  Although the posts and all comments connected to the post were eventually deleted, the thread sparked heated debates not only on Reddit but on Jezebel and in the Huffington Post. And despite the site’s attempt to remove the content of the thread, it took me less than fifteen minutes find a large section of the postings and comments in the Museum of Reddit.

My initial reaction to this content was disgust and outrage.  I was concerned about the way a forum like this could re-victimize survivors and even validate sexual assault.  I was not the only one who found the thread dangerous.  A psychiatrist responded to the thread arguing that a forum like Reddit’s can be a trigger for rapists and would be rapists.


Philip Seymour Hoffman, the prevalence of heroin and the experience of homeless drug users



Just about four weeks ago the public was shocked: Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment. But what most people talked about after the first trauma was not only that the world had lost a great actor. It was the needle in Hoffman’s arm.

Hoffman had suffered from drug and alcohol problems earlier in his life. The public knew about that. Most people, however, believed him clean for the last 23 years. Hoffman himself was in fact not reluctant to talk about his addiction in more straightforward and honest ways. As he told the Guardian in 2011:

“I know, deep down, I still look at the idea of drinking with the same ferocity that I did back then. It’s still pretty tangible. I had no interest in drinking in moderation. And I still don’t. Just because all that time’s passed doesn’t mean maybe it was just a phase.” (more…)

“I’ll have the extreme creampie MILF, please.”: What can PornHub’s research teach us about sex?



The pornography search engine PornHub, for reasons I can assume only they know, appear to have become sociologists. Using the collected data they have from their search engine that provides access to many free pornography sites, they have started a blog called ‘PornHub Insights’. This offers exactly what the name suggests – research and analysis directly from the ‘Pornhub team’, offering insights based on their data as to the numbers of viewers they have, how long they watch, and from where. Their most recent posts discuss, for example,  their traffic changes during key social events (during the American football Superbowl they experienced a traffic drop equivalent to over 300 million viewers). In terms of mapping what people do, this data has huge potential. (more…)

The U.S. Military’s Sexual Assault Problem

Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault hosts conference at Liberty Field House. Conference helps raise awareness and combat sexual assault. Retrieved from wiki commons

Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault hosts conference at Liberty Field House. Conference helps raise awareness and combat sexual assault. Retrieved from wiki commons.

The United States Senate failed to pass a bill that would have altered the military’s response to sexual assault.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) would have stripped senior military commanders of their authority to prosecute or prevent charges for alleged rapes and other serious offenses in favor of giving the authority to military trial lawyers operating under a newly established office independent of the chain of command.  The vote fell 5 votes short of the 60 necessary to move ahead with the legislation, with opponents of the bill arguing that commanding officers should be given more responsibility in preventing and punishing sexual offenses and that removing power from commanders threatens the organization of the military. The bill failed to pass despite multiple news reports revealing the extent of sexual assaults in the military and the lack of response by military commanders. (more…)

Shifting Hegemonic Masculinity? Gay Male Athletes and Discourses of Masculinity

By mariselise derivative work: Steffaville [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The NBA has its first openly gay player in Jason Collins, and the NFL will follow soon, as former college player Michael Sam is expected to join a team this summer. This might indicate that we are seeing a radical shift in society’s stereotypes about gay men. At the same time, it remains to be seen, as Dave Zirin asks at The Nation whether gay male athletes like Sam can help shift our definitions of masculinity more broadly or whether they might paradoxically reinforce gender norms and notions of hyper-masculinity at the same time.


Fly me to the Moon: Aviation: past, present, and future

By Yamaguchi Yoshiaki from Japan [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


This year marks one century of commercial flying. On New Year’s Day in 1914, a large crowd gathered in St.Petersburg, Florida, as an airboat named ‘Benoist’ (after its creator, Thomas Benoist), took to the sky for a 23-minute flight over the Tampa Bay, carrying a single passenger (Abram Pheil, who won his $400 ticket in an auction). This maiden flight soon became a regular route, thus marking aviation’s birth as a viable industry. In the following decades, transnational routes, jet engines and global airlines became fixtures of modern life.

What a difference a century makes. Today, 52 aircraft take off every minute, and an incredible half a million people are in the air above us at any one time. Flying now facilitates family visits, holidays, business and academic conferences, and freight trade; it’s made the world smaller, and the global economy bigger. (more…)

Gender and the Quest to Close Unauthorized Health Clinics in Cameroon

Unauthorized Health Clinic in Douala, Cameroon Source: Andres Caballero/NPR

Unauthorized Health Clinic in Douala, Cameroon
Source: Andres Caballero/NPR


A recent segment on NPR’s Morning Edition commented on the government of Cameroon’s recent campaign to shut down unauthorized health clinics throughout the country.  In recent years hundreds of illegal clinics have opened across the nation, treating individuals who cannot access public health care for financial or geographic reasons.

The short radio piece attempted to present contrasting voices.  The operator of an unauthorized clinic and the medical director of a major hospital in Douala each presented their side of the controversy.  In addition, the experiences of two patients were highlighted: a young woman with a fever and a woman who recently gave birth to a premature baby.


Introducing Digital Sociology



For its emerging practitioners, Digital Sociology is an ambitious and exciting new development. The ‘digital’ in its name is intentionally vague. It signifies anything that involves the transmission of 0s and 1s so includes everything from the Web,  to the Internet of Things,  to downloadable music, to devices that capture our heart rate: they are all within Digital Sociology’s scope.  Digital Sociology is attempting to exploit all the opportunities digital technology can offer. Simultaneously, Digital Sociology plans to continue sociology’s tradition of critical engagement with technology; temper some of the unrestrained rhetoric that attends digital innovation. However, it aims to achieve this in a way that avoids interdisciplinary friction.

These are just some of the questions Digital Sociology asks – questions that could be crucial to the future of sociology:

  • How can digital technology enhance the job of research? For example, has there ever been a more flexible and convenient ethnographic data capture device than the iPhone?
  • How can digital technology amplify sociological voices; particularly beyond the academy? For example, blogs such as The Sociological Imagination, Discover Society as well as, of course, The Sociological Lens are taking pioneering sociology to a new, non-specialist, albeit English-speaking,  global audience.
  • How can sociology work with other disciplines to achieve new insights? For example, what are the new methods; particularly those being developed within disciplines such as computer and network science, that sociologists can put to inventive use?  Sociology confronts some of society’s most profound and seemingly insoluble problems; in this respect, has digital technology improved sociology’s repertoire of instruments and data sources?

However, perhaps most crucial to Digital Sociology is an epistemological position it shares with its affiliate discipline Web Science.  That is technology, from its visual design to its embedded algorithms; no matter how asocial, logical it appears to be, bares the imprint of people’s norms, values and intentions. Inversely, technology can alter the way we think of ourselves and each other.   Digital Sociology attempts to unravel this complex, mutually sustaining relationship.

If all or any of this interests you please see @BSADigitalSoc on Twitter and for further information. There will also be a series of Digital Sociology sessions at the British Sociological Association’s Annual Conference.

The Spectacle and Politics of Globalized Sports

The Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo

This month the 22nd Winter Olympic Games began in Sochi, Russia. The spectacle of the event has captivated persons from around the world to tune into watch their favorite sport or favorite athletes. Russia spent over $50 billion to prepare for the Olympics by building hotels, roads, stadiums, and to bring in artificial snow into the Southern resort town.  The Sochi Olympics are the first mega-sporting event to occur this year, but will likely be trumped by the upcoming World Cup in Brazil over the summer. Brazil’s price tag for hosting the World Cup is considerable less at around $9 billion dollars. Nonetheless, the cost of both of these events and the emphasis by the respective countries to show the world the capabilities of their nation reveal the increasing globalization of these world sporting events. The Olympics and the World Cup are two global sports spectacles that have considerable cultural and economic ramifications, and are a product of intense politicking to bring the events to one’s national home.