Research

My research has been supported by the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the UM Institute for Research on Women and Gender’s Community of Scholars Program, and the UM Population Studies Center’s Small Grants Initiative. I regularly present this research at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association and the Population Association of America. My work has been published in Gender & Society, and is forthcoming in Demography and Contexts.

My research focuses on young women’s non-heterosexualities. I am broadly interested in issues of measurement and inclusion in social science research on sexuality (especially expanding the scholarly focus on young women’s sexual fluidity to representative samples, with an explicit attention to race and class), and the epistemological implications of disconnecting the studies of sexual pleasure and risk. I aim to strengthen connections between qualitative and survey-based approaches to studying young women’s sexualities (including improving questionnaire design and the inclusion of non-hetero subjects), and develop integrative theories of bisexuality and fluidity that better account for the complexity of real women’s lives.

A second project explores the consequences for social scientists of the claim that gay people are “born this way.” Scientists and the public alike have increasingly adopted a biologized and/or geneticized conceptualization of (homo)sexuality. While biological scientists conduct research searching for the “gene for” homosexuality, the youngest generation of LGBT youth has taken up Lady Gaga’s anthem that they are “born this way.” Popular discourse about sexuality draws heavily on evidence from psychology in order to make claims about the biological fixedness of sexuality. This project explores this epistemic culture and its consequences for LGBT acceptance, inclusion, and civil rights. I investigate how constructionist theories of sexuality declined in the wake of new genetic and bio-psych tools and expertise.

Both projects fit into a broader narrative of the challenges faced by social scientists studying (non-hetero) sexualities in the experimental and quantitative social sciences.