Kiss And Tell / Edition 1

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Overview

Learning the details of others' sex lives is the most enticing of guilty pleasures. We measure our own practices against the "normalcy" that sex surveys seek to capture. Special interest groups use or attack survey findings (such as the claim that 10% of Americans are gay) for their own ends. Indeed, we all have some stake in these surveys, be it self-justification, recrimination, or curiosity--and this testifies to their significance in our culture.

Kiss and Tell chronicles the history of sex surveys in the United States over a century of changing social and sexual mores. Julia Ericksen and Sally Steffen reveal that the survey questions asked, more than the answers elicited, expose and shape the popular image of appropriate sexuality. We can learn as much about the history and practice of sexuality by looking at surveyors' changing concerns as we can by reading the results of their surveys. The authors show how surveys have reflected societal anxieties about adolescent development, teen sex and promiscuity, and AIDS, and have been employed in efforts to preserve marriage and to control women's sexuality.

Kiss and Tell is an important examination of the role of social science in shaping American sexual patterns. Revealing how surveys of sexual behavior help create the issues they purport merely to describe, it reminds us how malleable and imperfect our knowledge of sexual behavior is.

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Editorial Reviews

The Independent

Julia Ericksen studied more than 750 surveys conducted over the past 100 years, and she has concluded that when it comes to sex we don't want to be left out. [She] believes that sexual surveys provide a way for people to evaluate their behaviour 'by revealing the private behaviour of others.'
— Cherry Norton

Choice

Ericksen and Steffen present a well-written summary of sex surveys in the US from 1898 to the late 1990s. Using concepts from the sociology of knowledge, the authors assert that studies about sexual behavior and attitudes both reflected and affected the contemporary culture in which the surveys were conducted. They describe the political, funding, and public opinion problems faced by researchers on sexuality, emphasizing especially how the topics examined, phrasing of the questions asked, nonrandomness of the samples used, and interpretation of the data shaped the results. Starting with early, usually puritanical studies presented to limited professional audiences and moving to later, frequently antipuritanical research widely publicized by the media, the authors show how the surveys were often used by nonresearchers to further political, religious, and social agendas.
— R. W. Smith

Sexualities
Kiss and Tell provides a detailed narrative of the principal foci of sex surveys throughout the twentieth century: through the first stilted promotions of erotically efficient marital sex to the wider ranging and more reflexive surveys of young people in the 1970s...The book would serve well as a resource for students and scholars of North American sexual culture.
American Journal of Sociology

This is a thoughtful book about a difficult subject. It is concerned with social scientific attempts to use surveys to study the sexual behavior of Americans- adolescents and adults, men and women-during the last century. The authors have made an exhaustive search for such studies, describe the main ones in detail, set the studies in their political and social context, and examine the political difficulties that recent surveys in particular have encountered.
— Martin Bulmer

The Independent - Cherry Norton
Julia Ericksen studied more than 750 surveys conducted over the past 100 years, and she has concluded that when it comes to sex we don't want to be left out. [She] believes that sexual surveys provide a way for people to evaluate their behaviour 'by revealing the private behaviour of others.'
Choice - R. W. Smith
Ericksen and Steffen present a well-written summary of sex surveys in the US from 1898 to the late 1990s. Using concepts from the sociology of knowledge, the authors assert that studies about sexual behavior and attitudes both reflected and affected the contemporary culture in which the surveys were conducted. They describe the political, funding, and public opinion problems faced by researchers on sexuality, emphasizing especially how the topics examined, phrasing of the questions asked, nonrandomness of the samples used, and interpretation of the data shaped the results. Starting with early, usually puritanical studies presented to limited professional audiences and moving to later, frequently antipuritanical research widely publicized by the media, the authors show how the surveys were often used by nonresearchers to further political, religious, and social agendas.
American Journal of Sociology - Martin Bulmer
This is a thoughtful book about a difficult subject. It is concerned with social scientific attempts to use surveys to study the sexual behavior of Americans- adolescents and adults, men and women-during the last century. The authors have made an exhaustive search for such studies, describe the main ones in detail, set the studies in their political and social context, and examine the political difficulties that recent surveys in particular have encountered.
Choice
Ericksen and Steffen present a well-written summary of sex surveys in the US from 1898 to the late 1990s. Using concepts from the sociology of knowledge, the authors assert that studies about sexual behavior and attitudes both reflected and affected the contemporary culture in which the surveys were conducted. They describe the political, funding, and public opinion problems faced by researchers on sexuality, emphasizing especially how the topics examined, phrasing of the questions asked, nonrandomness of the samples used, and interpretation of the data shaped the results. Starting with early, usually puritanical studies presented to limited professional audiences and moving to later, frequently antipuritanical research widely publicized by the media, the authors show how the surveys were often used by nonresearchers to further political, religious, and social agendas.
— R. W. Smith
The Independent
Julia Ericksen studied more than 750 surveys conducted over the past 100 years, and she has concluded that when it comes to sex we don't want to be left out. [She] believes that sexual surveys provide a way for people to evaluate their behaviour 'by revealing the private behaviour of others.'
— Cherry Norton
American Journal of Sociology
This is a thoughtful book about a difficult subject. It is concerned with social scientific attempts to use surveys to study the sexual behavior of Americans- adolescents and adults, men and women-during the last century. The authors have made an exhaustive search for such studies, describe the main ones in detail, set the studies in their political and social context, and examine the political difficulties that recent surveys in particular have encountered.
— Martin Bulmer
Sexualities
The book would serve well as a resource for students and scholars of North American sexual culture.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674006959
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 0.65 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia A. Ericksen is Professor of Sociology at Temple University.

Sally A. Steffen, J.D., is an associate at Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP, Philadelphia.

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Table of Contents

Asking Questions about Sex

In Urgent Need of the Facts

Sex in the Service of the Conjugal Bond

Sex before Marriage

Adolescent Fertility

Coupling and Uncoupling

Excising the Experts

Gay Men and AIDS

Politics and Sex Surveys

The Story Continues

Reforming Sex Research

Notes

Index

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