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DeLamater & HasdayPage 1

Sociological Perspectives

Many disciplines contribute to an understanding of human sexuality. While disciplines in the humanities address the range of behaviors, thoughts and feelings associated with human sexuality, it is the sciences that seek to create and assess overarching explanatory theories. These disciplines, most of which have a long history of theory-based work, include biology, evolutionary psychology, psychology, anthropology, women’s studies, communications, family studies, and, of course, sociology.

Theories regarding sexuality are some of the least conceptually developed and least empirically tested (Weis, 1998). In a content analysis of articles published between 1971 and 1990 in The Journal of Sex Research and Archives of Sexual Behavior (both multi-disciplinary journals), 25% of articles in the former and 6% of articles in the latter were found to be primarily concerned with theory development. A full 53% of the articles in Archives and 31% of articles in The Journal of Sex Research were atheoretical. Weis concludes that, “Each of these studies depicts a tendency of the sexological journals to publish data reports, which are descriptive and atheoretical” and that, “Even when specific hypotheses are tested, they are rarely derived from or designed to test theoretical propositions” (6). There have, however, been some notable recent improvements in efforts to expand the role of theory and metatheory in sex research, including a special issue in 1998 of The Journal of Sex Research entitled, “The Use of Theory in Research and Scholarship on Sexuality,” as well as an issue of Qualitative Sociology published in 2003 entitled, “Sex and Sociology: Sociological Studies of Sexuality, 1910-1978.”

The history of empirical sociological research on sexuality can be traced to Kinsey’s (1948, 1953) landmark volumes, for which Kinsey and his associates interviewed thousands of men and women about their sexual experiences. Although he did not use representative sampling

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