My research focuses on sexual identity and behavior among young mothers and women beyond the elite college campus, contraceptive behavior and relationship dynamics among non-heterosexual women, the experiences of non-heterosexual women participating in fertility research, sexual violence, and the epistemological implications of disconnecting the study of sexual pleasure and risk.
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.
My work has been supported by the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center. My work has been published in Gender & Society, Contexts, and Demography.