Research

I am a sociologist specializing in gender and sexuality. My work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, and the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center and Institute for Research on Women and Gender. My sole-authored and co-authored scholarship has been published in Gender & Society, Contexts, Demography, and the American Sociological Review.

My research agenda comprises three major areas: First, I study the social construction of knowledge about sexuality. My book project, based on my dissertation research, shows how the sexuality knowledge produced by demographers and other social scientists shapes policy, politics, and identities. Second, I am deeply invested in advancing the demography of sexualities, both by producing population science that can be used to meaningfully address inequalities affecting LGBTQ people, and by shaping measurement and research practices. Third, I have examined young women’s sexual identity, behavior, and desire using innovative sampling methods in order to make theories of sexual fluidity more intersectional.

Specifically, my research has focused on sexual fluidity among young mothers and women beyond the elite college campus, the experiences of non-heterosexual women participating in fertility research, contraceptive behavior and relationship dynamics among non-heterosexual women (with Elizabeth Ela),  sexual and intimate partner violence (with Jennifer Barber, Yasamin Kusunoki, and Heather Gatny), measuring sexual violence in surveys (with Elizabeth Armstrong), and the epistemological implications of disconnecting the study of sexual pleasure and risk in survey research (with Laurel Westbrook and Aliya Saperstein).

In my dissertation, I analyze the surge of interest in the demography of sexuality to show how social scientific thinking shapes policy, and vice versa. The last decade witnessed an unprecedented prioritization of research on non-heterosexuality, fueling progress in LGBTQ civil rights and activism focused on issues of data collection. Political upheaval and contemporary skepticism toward expertise leaves this sexuality knowledge in a precarious position. I draw on STS approaches to the politics of knowledge, the sociology of quantification and classification, survey methodology, and feminist epistemology to tell the stories of five prominent knowledge claims about non-heterosexuality. I use comparative-historical and interview methods to investigate how knowledge claims about non-heterosexuality circulate out in the world in public discourse and policy debates, and interrogate their technical production within social science, specifically demography.  My case demonstrates the continued relevance, contested legitimacy, and sociopolitical influence of sexuality knowledge – as well as the high stakes of social science expertise on the national stage.