“The great cat mutilation: sex, social movements and the utilitarian calculus in 1970s New York City,” by Michael Pettit. The abstract reads,
In 1976, the animal liberation movement made experiments conducted on cats at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) one of its earliest successful targets. Although the scientific consensus was that Aronson was not particularly cruel or abusive, the AMNH was selected due to the visibility of the institution, the pet-like status of the animals, and the seeming perversity of studying non-human sexuality. I contextualize the controversy in terms of the changing meaning of utilitarian ethics in justifying animal experimentation. The redefinition of ‘surgeries’ as ‘mutilations’ reflected an encounter between the behavioural sciences and social movements. One of the aims of the late 1960s civil rights movements was to heighten Americans’ sensitivity to differing experiences of suffering. The AMNH protesters drew inspiration from a revived utilitarian ethics of universal organismic pain across the lines of species. This episode was also emblematic of the emergence of an anti-statist, neo-liberal ethos in science. Invoking the rhetoric of the 1970s tax revolt, animal liberationists attacked Aronson’s ability to conduct basic research with no immediate biomedical application. Without denying the violence involved, an exclusive focus on reading the experiments through the lens of utilitarianism obscures what ethics animated Aronson’s research.
Alfred C. Kinsey’s revolutionary studies of human sexual behavior are world-renowned. His meticulous methods of data collection, from comprehensive entomological assemblies to personal sex history interviews, raised the bar for empirical evidence to an entirely new level. In The Classification of Sex, Donna J. Drucker presents an original analysis of Kinsey’s scientific career in order to uncover the roots of his research methods. Continue reading New Book: The Classification of Sex, Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge→
A new issue of Journal of the History of the Neuroscience is now online. Included in this issue are articles on psychosurgery as a transnational movement, artists and phantom limbs, and sex and gender in organology. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“A Transnational Perspective on Psychosurgery: Beyond Portugal and the United States,” by Brianne M. Collinsa & Henderikus J. Stam. The abstract reads,
The history of psychosurgery is most often recounted as a narrative wherein Portuguese and American physicians play the leading role. It is a traditional narrative in which the United States and, at times, Portugal are central in the development and spread of psychosurgery. Here we largely abandon the archetypal narrative and provide one of the first transnational accounts of psychosurgery to demonstrate the existence of a global psychosurgical community in which more than 40 countries participated, bolstered, critiqued, modified and heralded the treatment. From its inception in 1935 until its decline in the mid-1960s, psychosurgery was performed on almost all continents. Rather than being a phenomenon isolated to the United States and Portugal, it became a truly transnational movement.
What is the relationship between intelligence and sex? In recent decades, studies of the controversial histories of both intelligence testing and of human sexuality in the United States have been increasingly common—and hotly debated. But rarely have the intersections of these histories been examined. In Gentlemen’s Disagreement, Peter Hegarty enters this historical debate by recalling the debate between Lewis Terman—the intellect who championed the testing of intelligence— and pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, and shows how intelligence and sexuality have interacted in American psychology.Through a fluent discussion of intellectually gifted onanists, unhappily married men, queer geniuses, lonely frontiersmen, religious ascetics, and the two scholars themselves, Hegarty traces the origins of Terman’s complaints about Kinsey’s work to show how the intelligence testing movement was much more concerned with sexuality than we might remember. And, drawing on Foucault, Hegarty reconciles these legendary figures by showing how intelligence and sexuality in early American psychology and sexology were intertwined then and remain so to this day.
The December 2010 issue of History of the Human Sciences has just been released online. Included in this issue are nine all new articles. Among the topics addressed in these articles are, James and Durkheim on truth, Freud and Krafft-Ebing on sexuality, and the historiography of sexuality. Additionally, Janet Martin-Nielsen (left) writes of the emergence of linguistics in the United States during the Cold War. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Durkheim, Jamesian pragmatism and the normativity of truth,” by Warren Schmaus. The abstract reads,
In his lectures on pragmatism presented in the academic year 1913—14 at the Sorbonne, Durkheim argued that James’s pragmatist theory of truth, due to its emphasis on individual satisfaction, was unable to account for the obligatory, necessary and impersonal character of truth. But for Durkheim to make this charge is only to raise the question whether he himself could account for the morally obligatory or normative character of truth. Although rejecting individualism may be necessary for explaining the existence of norms, it is not sufficient. I argue that Durkheim never succeeded in providing a full account of normativity. Of course, this is a problem that remains unresolved today. Nevertheless, Durkheim took an important step beyond James in recognizing the insufficiency of his individualist account of truth.
Psychologists of a certain age (roughly, over 40) may recall the considerable public controversy that erupted over an 1998 article published in Psychological Bulletin (124, 22-53) entitled, “A meta-analytic examination of assumed properties of child sexual abuse using college samples.” The article, written by Bruce Rind, Philip Tromovitch, and Robert Bauserman, argued against the widespread belief that child sexual abuse is always traumatic and damaging. Instead, the authors wrote that “self-reported reactions to and effects from CSA [child sexual abuse] indicated that negative effects were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and tha[t] men reacted much less negatively than women…. Basic beliefs about CSA in the general population were not supported.” The article drew a storm of protest, most notably from conservative members of the US Congress, who condemn the article and made dark noises about responding to it by pulling funding for behavioral research. The American Psychological Association scrambled in limit the damage while simultaneously trying not to appear to be buckling to overt political pressure (see Scott O. Lilienfeld’s comment in a 2002 issue of the American Psychologist). The article was later heavily criticized on methodological grounds by Stephanie J. Dallam.
When members of the conservative movement in the US advocate subjecting gay and lesbian people to a putatively psychotherapeutic process that will “convert” them to heterosexuality, they often cite studies published by the renowned sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. The “conversion” procedure was outlined in their 1979 book, Homosexuality in Perspective, in which it was reported that of 67 patients suffering from “homosexual dissatisfaction,” just 14 failed to be “converted” by the two-week treatment.
Now, however, there is suspicion that the cases never existed, that they were essentially “made up” by Masters without the knowledge of Johnson or his other colleagues. The allegations are published in an article in the April 22 issue of Scientific American. According to the article’s author, Thomas Maier, who has just published a book on Masters and Johnson called Masters of Sex, Continue reading “Homosexuality Conversion” classics fraudulent?→
Harlequin, the world’s largest publisher of “series romance,” is turning 60. Founded in 1949 — when Winnipeg businessman Richard Bonnycastle began issuing paperback reprints of cookbooks, westerns, detective yarns, and love stories — it now ships over 120 titles a month, in 29 languages. With stories ranging from tame to smutty, the publisher’s archive also offers a condensed social history of love and the making thereof.
The first pregnancy storyline arrived in the 1960s. The late ’70s saw a surge of sexual content, partly in response to the 19th-century S&M-fests penned by Rosemary Rogers, a scandalously popular author at rival publisher Avon. Harlequin cover model Fabio, all oiled chest and blond mane, debuted during the excessive 1980s. (The images in which Fabio commandingly clutches an adoring, half-naked woman are iconic examples of what is known in the industry as “the clinch.”) The ’90s saw some retrenchment into recognizably ordinary lives — heroes and heroines were often ranchers, pediatricians and cops in contemporary small-town North America. Increasingly, romances featured blended families, with single moms reconnecting with high school crushes or widowed fathers silently yearning for nurturing nannies. On these covers, the clinch is replaced by the potent hormonal cocktail of a handsome man holding an infant. (CBC.ca Arts)
According to some reports, Harlequin presently sells an average of 4 books every second. The reason? Passion is universal, claims author Shannon Drake.
Angus McLaren has written books about the emergence of the serial killer, medical ethics, abortion, and the history of contraception and eugenics. But it is his most recent works — Sexual Blackmail: A Modern History (Harvard, 2002) and Impotence: A Cultural History (Chicago, 2007) — that led him to be profiled in this month’s issue of University Affairs, 50(3).
“I am always fascinated with the question, why? Why should that custom arise? What function did that form of sympathetic magic serve in society? Why was it believed?” And many times, the questions cannot be answered or understood by us in the modern day without the context of the societal relationships and power structures of the earlier time. “I am always saying the past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.”
In a recent issue of History of Education, 37(5), Angela Davis examines the post-Depression debates regarding the proper behaviour of mothers and, more specifically, the preparation of young girls to take on that role.
This article investigates how girls were educated about sex, pregnancy and childbirth during the years 1930 to 1970. Based on the results of 92 oral-history interviews with Oxfordshire women, it explores how national debates surrounding sex education influenced what girls in Oxfordshire were taught. In addition, it examines how successful the women themselves thought this education had been in equipping them for maternity and whether they believed women could indeed be educated for motherhood.