The Sociology of Sexualities: Queer and Beyond.

Gamson, Joshua and Dawne Moon. 2004. “The Sociology of Sexualities: Queer and Beyond.” Annual Review of Sociology. Vol.30, pp.47-64.

Authors: Joshua Gamson and Dawne Moon


Three trends in sociology regarding sexuality that this review explores:

  1. How queer theory has influenced sociology.
  2. Examining the nature and effects of sexuality among multiple and intersecting systems of identity and oppression.
  3. Sexuality and the political economy 


  • Sexuality Once was just a study of Deviance, but the sexual liberation movements of the 1970s-80s created an interdisciplinary field of gay and lesbian studies.
  • Epstein: “Sexual meanings, identities and categories were inter-subjectively negotiated social and historical products — that sexuality was in a word, constructed.” (Pg48) 
  • Constructivism too influenced the creation of sexual sociology.
  • In the1990’s Queer theory began to question sexual identities, but with the inclusion of questioning institutional roles in creating these identities, a “queer sociology” was born.
  • Sexuality is intertwined with the cultural creation of other categories of inequality (like race, income, etc.).

Queer Theory, Fluidity, and Heteronormativity

  • Sexual identities are “inevitably intertwined with, even sometimes constitutive of, power relations.”
  • Identities are fluid, and treaded differently by different people: “Lifestylers treat “gayness as a noun,” commuters treat their identity as a verb, and integrators treat it as an adjective” (pg49)
  • Conflicts exist within identity categories, leading one to believe the common “homosexual-heterosexual” dichotomy to be oversimplifying and sometimes false.
  • Puri argues that the constructions are influenced by national and global discourses.
  • Good quote: “fixed identity categories are both the basis for oppression and the basis for political power.” (pg 50)
  • Going drag is a form of protesting fixed identity categories.
  • The author then discusses the use of sexuality in a political protest: “lesbians and gays are full citizens in a society that is fundamentally altered by their inclusion.” (pg 50)
  • Media and the visibility of these sub-sexualities show us that gay/straight and male female dichotomies are unworkable.
  • The institution of the family is also under scrutiny as homosexuals seek to create new and modern families.
  • Summing up this section: ” In looking at how sexuality and the meanings people impute to it shape various institutions, these sociologists all demonstrate core queer-theoretical assertions: that in creating and reproducing sexual categories, people reproduce relations of power; that every social institution, however asexual in appearance, relies on and enforces sexual boundaries and divisions.” (pg 52)

Sexuality’s Intersections

  • Queer politics runs the risk of oversimplifying sexuality , and by also leaving out important factors to sexuality like race.
  • Sexuality intersects and interacts with other systems of oppression, and it is worth examining HOW. Black sexuality is based off of the “female jezebel and the male rapist” stereotypes, thus justifying segregation and “racial containment.”
  • “These assumptions, whether spoken or unspoken, have influenced policies as broad as colonization, marriage and welfare law, healthcare and education—not to mention less institutionalized practices.” pg53 
  • Managing sexuality is necessary as a sense of personal integrity and autonomy, it is also linked to other identities, and those identities dictate actions/preferences.
  • Desire too does not fit well with dominant systems of identifying categories.
  • Good quote: “the ongoing maintenance of racial categories depends upon culture narratives about sexual deviance and purity.” (pg 54)
  • Neither sexuality nor race can be fully understood without the without both components being explored. 
  • Anatomical differences become deviance, resulting in different treatment. 
  • Nationality takes on gendered qualities, for instance Hindu nationality is masculine and heterosexist.

The Political Economy of Sexuality

  • Bodily pleasures are shaped by economic and political factors.
  • Sexual mores have changed with the contact of other societies and technology.
  • Some gay organizations have tried to further tolerance in the middle east, to only agitate and double down efforts to oppress  gays and lesbians.
  • Gay Mexican men immigrate to more tolerant countries.
  • So the “egalitarian model of same-sex relationships (as opposed to the age- or gender-stratified models he sees as prevalent in less modern contexts) emerges in a context of international gay and non-gay media, where local and global concepts engage each other dialectically.” pg 57
  • New markets are opening up, creating legitimate avenues for advertisers to bank on new demographics: “the transformation of gay and lesbian media from organizations answering at least partly to geographical and political communities into businesses answering primarily to advertisers and investors.”
  • Gay and non-gay organizations are now being defined somewhat by their sexual affiliations.
  • The outcry and the sexualization of a political economy has shown the existence of morality in markets.


  • Moral markets, sexual-national boundaries, all indicate a great deal of influence of gender, sex, and race in the world. 
  • “Queer theory, inter-sectional analysis, political economy perspectives, and globalization studies have all pushed sociologists of sexuality into crucial new zones of inquiry; by drawing from these perspectives, sexuality studies scholars have the potential to push sociologists of all kinds into new zones, in return.” pg60
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