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The Sexual Organization of the City Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0226470313 ISBN-10: 0226470318 Edition: 1st

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The Sexual Organization of the City + The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 435 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226470318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226470313
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,215,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"I don't think that my review . . . can possibly do justice to a book filled with information, analyses, theory, and reflections on every one of its 359 pages. . . . The book describes, analyzes, and illuminates the complex interplay of group cultures, social networks, institutions, and social spaces within which sex markets and hence individual sex partnering practices are embedded. It should be read by sociologists, human geographers, social workers, health professionals, religious leaders, and anyone else simply wishing to learn from this group of experts."
(Elizabeth Cooksey Journal of the History of Sexuality)

From the Inside Flap

We think of the city as a place where anything goes. Take the sensational fantasies and lurid antics of single women on Sex in the City or young men on Queer as Folk, and you might imagine the city as some kind of sexual playground—a place where you can have any kind of sex you want, with whomever you like, anytime or anywhere you choose.

But in The Sexual Organization of the City, Edward Laumann and company argue that this idea is a myth. Drawing on extensive surveys and interviews with Chicago adults, they show that the city is—to the contrary—a place where sexual choices and options are constrained. From Wicker Park and Boys Town to the South Side and Pilsen, they observe that sexual behavior and partnering are significantly limited by such factors as which neighborhood you live in, your ethnicity, what your sexual preference might be, or the circle of friends to which you belong. In other words, the social and institutional networks that city dwellers occupy potentially limit their sexual options by making different types of sexual activities, relationships, or meeting places less accessible.

To explain this idea of sex in the city, the editors of this work develop a theory of sexual marketplaces—the places where people look for sexual partners. They then use this theory to consider a variety of questions about sexuality: Why do sexual partnerships rarely cross racial and ethnic lines, even in neighborhoods where relatively few same-ethnicity partners are available? Why do gay men and lesbians have few public meeting spots in some neighborhoods, but a wide variety in others? Why are African Americans less likely to marry than whites? Does having a lot of friends make you less likely to get a sexually transmitted disease? And why do public health campaigns promoting safe sex seem to change the behaviors of some, but not others?

Considering vital questions such as these, and shedding new light on the city of Chicago, this work will profoundly recast our ideas about human sexual behavior.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By G Carter on December 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
An interesting book by a respected sociologist.

The previous reviewer engaged in more of an ad hominem attack than a review because he, apparently, dislikes qualitative approaches to sociology (and structural-functionalism in particular). He reviewed a discipline and methodology rather than this book, and used his review to sell his own book.

Moreover, he didn't even get the name of the school right. It is the University of Chicago, which would surely be known by any reputable sociologist as it is known for founding the enormously influential school of thought known as "the Chicago School" in the 1930s.

Sexual organizations and structures in urban environments are notoriously inaccessible to statisticians, and Laumann's subjective, qualitative approach is very appropriate in this book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas J. Hickey on April 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Laumann's romanticism

Sexual Organization of the City (2004) by Chicago University's Edward O. Laumann is one of several of Laumann's books reporting survey finding about sexual behaviors. Laumann received his sociology Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1964, which was during the heyday of the Parsonsonian romantic philosophy of science in sociology. Romantics construe sociology as a social psychology of subjective mental states, variously called motives, scripts, normative orientations, and other so-called "mechanisms" that define their idea of "social theory".

Laumann's romanticist philosophy of science is manifest in a chapter titled "Normative Orientations toward Sexuality" in his earlier Social Organization of Sexuality. The subjectivism is also evident in his recent article (April 2006) titled "A cross-sectional study of subjective well-being among older woman and men" in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

For half a century this German romantic philosophy of science, which originated in Hegel's Geist philosophy, and which Talcott Parsons imported to Harvard from Heidelberg, dominated American academic sociology. While editor of the American Journal of Sociology at Chicago University, Laumann is known to have rejected empirical contributions that do not conform to this romanticist philosophy of science.

But times have changed both in sociology and at Harvard. Years ago Harvard's Nathan Glazer exposed sociology's impotence in his Limits of Social Policy (1988), and the New York Times documented academic sociology's decline in "Sociology's Long Decade in the Wilderness" (28 May 1989). Today the American Sociological Association reports that the number of sociology Ph.D. degrees awarded is still nearly 17 percent below the 1976 peak.
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