The Sexual Organization of the City

"In The Sexual Organization of the City Laumann and his team of researchers use the data from a 1995 survey of four Chicago neighborhoods to map out the mating habits of urbanites. . . . Neighborhoods play a critical role in how we choose partners for brief sexual encounters and long-term engagements."—Chicago

Please note that tables and footnotes do not appear in this online version of the chapter.

See also:

Chapter 2: The Chicago Health and Social Life Survey Design

A webpage for the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey


An excerpt from
The Sexual Organization of the City
Edward O. Laumann, Stephen Ellingson, Jenna Mahay, Anthony Paik, and Yoosik Youm, editors

Chapter 1
The Theory of Sex Markets
Stephen Ellingson, Edward O. Laumann, Anthony Paik, and Jenna Mahay

Aurelia Salinas is a parish counselor at Saint Paul of the Cross Catholic Church in the Westside neighborhood of Chicago. Ms. Salinas is formally trained in psychotherapy, is skilled in the arts of traditional herbal medicine and witchcraft of her native Peru, and was raised in the Catholic Church. She uses all three "points of view" as she tries to help individuals, couples, and families deal with their relational problems. The main sexual problem that she encounters—and she encounters it all the time—is that women dislike sex, viewing it as a burden of marriage. There seems to be a widespread belief among men that women who have experienced the sexual pleasure of kissing or being caressed will no longer be receptive to penetration with the penis. Men therefore resist any form of sexual activity other than penetration. Ms. Salinas's problem has been to find a way to challenge this belief, but the traditional remedies do not help.

Barbara Boyer is a therapist whose clients are gay men and lesbians. When asked about gender and age differences among the two groups, she responded as one would expect—until she turned her attention to the post-AIDS generation:

As a group, lesbians who are over thirty or thirty-five tend to be looking for relationships. Younger women tend to move through relationships quickly. Men of all ages tend to move through relationships quickly. Young women tend to think that it is OK to sleep around more than older women do. Moral or religious values do not tend to curtail activities; fear of AIDS does. Women still tend to think they're immune, and they shouldn't. For men, AIDS is a big issue in terms of getting into a relationship. They are mostly afraid that they are getting involved with someone only to lose him. There are two ways that men deal with the crisis. There are those who try to hold on to whoever they have left and those who don't want to make close attachments. Young men are fatalistic; they assume that they will get infected with HIV regardless of what precautions they take. Because of this there has been a loss of ground—people are not being as safe as they used to be. In a strange way, AIDS is influencing the "in" and "out" crowds within the adult community. Those who were "in" are HIV positive. I think it has to do with all of the attention that is given to men who are infected. There is a sense that they are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Friends and the community want to help, and they make those infected the focus of attention. More and more services are being directed at dealing with [AIDS], like all the support groups for men with HIV. HIV/AIDS is what people connect over.

Derek is a bisexual African American man from the city's South Side. Following his usual routine of looking for a straight, Hispanic gang-banger, Derek visits a public park in Chicago's Northwest Side neighborhood of Erlinda—the scene of a curious interracial dëtente that brings together unlikely buyers and sellers. Gay white and African American men looking for "drive-up" sex (i.e., a quick blow job) cruise the park to trade cash or drugs for sex with drug addicts, Hispanic gang-bangers, and other straight-identified Hispanic men looking to make a quick buck. At the park Derek meets Juan, forty-something, straight, married, and Hispanic. The initial encounter is a simple transaction: oral sex for a few dollars. On subsequent visits to the park, Derek keeps coming back to Juan. The two become friends, and the casual sex becomes something more than casual. The relationship ends when Derek decides to be exclusively heterosexual. Juan, however, decides to become exclusively homosexual, takes a new lover, and is dumped by his wife.

Father Gately serves a large Latino parish in the predominately Mexican neighborhood of Westside. When asked how residents of the neighborhood meet their partners, he gives a response that reveals the central role that family and immigrant networks play in partner choice: "Among the rural immigrants, where machismo is especially strong, women aren't really allowed out to parties or public places to meet guys. People often meet through family events such as quinceañeras. Many people I marry are from the same town in Mexico, even though they met here, because they meet at these sorts of events." When asked whether single men go back to Mexico to find wives, Father Gately says that some do, especially those men who have come to the United States alone. When pressed, he explains that, even though men who were farmers in Mexico get factory jobs in the States, they remain part of the rancho culture and, therefore, prefer to marry women from the same background, women who will be familiar with and maintain their religious and cultural traditions. More cynically, women fresh off the farm will likely be more subservient than immigrant women, who will have been exposed to urban American culture and more egalitarian gender roles and, thus, will likely be more self-assertive.

Robert Park ([1929] 1967, 18) once noted that, in the city, "all suppressed desires find somewhere an expression," and these four vignettes illustrate some of the possibilities for and some of the outcomes of sexual expression that we discovered in our study of sex in Chicago. As are we, Park was interested in the social ordering of urban processes. Specifically, we seek to explain why the choice of sex partner and the outcome of the resultant relationship are consistently patterned within and organized by particular communities, social networks, organizations, and meaning systems. These vignettes highlight some of the themes of this book:

  • the constructed, highly organized venues in which individuals search for sex partners;
  • the role that group cultures and community norms play in structuring sexual relationships and behavioral repertoires;
  • the limited efforts of institutional actors, like churches or social-service agencies, to regulate relationships and behaviors as well as the limited effects of those efforts;
  • the importance of urban space as a facilitator of sexual transactions; and
  • the social, family, and health consequences of sexual decisionmaking.

Thus, the animating questions of the book are, How is the process of sexual partnering organized within local settings in a large metropolitan center, and what are the consequences of the resultant sexual relationships? We are interested in explaining recurrent patterns of partner selection and relationship formation in different urban subpopulations (e.g., single heterosexual African American women, gay white men) and the unintended outcomes of different patterns of sexuality. From this general interest we begin to generate more specific questions that will guide the analyses presented in subsequent chapters: Why do sexual partnerships rarely cross racial and ethnic lines even where the lack of available partners—the usual situation for, for example, African American women—should motivate individuals to seek out partners of a different race or ethnicity? What accounts for the cases in which racial or ethnic lines are crossed, as with Derek and Juan? Why do public-health/safe-sex campaigns seem to alter the behaviors of some groups but go consistently unheeded by others? Why do gay men and lesbians have few public or commercial meeting spots in some neighborhoods and a wide variety in others? Why do some populations rely on personal networks to find partners and other populations on bars and dance clubs.

The Social Organization of Sexual Partnering and Sexual Relationships

Sexual partnerships are fundamental elements of adult social life and have important social outcomes, such as health, marriage, fertility, and social stratification. Yet people must routinely solve the problem of finding sex partners in order for sexual partnering to occur. The way in which sexual partnering is organized is not random, genetically predetermined, or uniform. Depending on the communities in which they live, the networks in which they are embedded, and the institutions with which they come into contact, people solve the problem of finding sex partners in different ways; nevertheless, the problem of "matching" is a universal feature of human societies.

National surveys of sexuality, such as the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS), allow for the examination of broad patterns of sexual behavior. The NHSLS, for example, demonstrated that sexual behavior was organized by "master-status" categories, such as marital status, race/ethnicity, education, age, and religion. In an analysis of the NHSLS data, The Social Organization of Sexuality (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994) found that the vast majority of sexual partnerships originate within tightly circumscribed social settings, producing many partnerships between persons with similar characteristics and few partnerships between people with dissimilar characteristics. This study made new inroads into our understanding of the basic organization of sexual partnering in the United States.

However, sexual partnering is fundamentally a local process; typically, two people must live within reasonable geographic proximity to initiate and develop a sexual relationship. People often meet because they are members of the same social network, belong to the same organization, live in the same neighborhood, etc. The social forces that make relationships easy to initiate and sustain with certain people and difficult to initiate and sustain with others are amplified, muted, and reconfigured according to the confluence of important social variables, such as group culture, religious affiliation, sex ratios, age, marital status, class stratification, and racial/ethnic segregation. Thus, sexual-partnering opportunities are heavily structured by the local organization of social life, the local population mix, and the shared norms guiding the types of relationships that are sanctioned or supported.

A brief example illustrates this claim. While there is a widely held social and cultural preference for heterosexual over homosexual relationships in the United States, there are local variations. For example, a young man living in San Francisco will be more likely to consider pursuing a male sex partner than will, say, a young man living in Wyoming. Also, should these young men choose to pursue male sex partners, the opportunities for finding social support for that choice will be quite different for each.

These local differences in the manner in which and the degree to which general social expectations are enforced are not captured by national surveys. It is difficult to investigate in any detail the various aspects of social context relevant to the NHSLS data because survey respondents are spread too widely among locales with different norms, opportunities, and supports for various sorts of sexual partnerships and practices. In an effort to better understand the local context that informs and shapes decisions regarding sexual practices and sexual relationships as they actually occur, the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey (CHSLS) was conducted from 1995 through 1997. This book, which is based on the data collected by this survey, represents our attempt to understand the significance of local context.

One metaphor with considerable power is, we believe, the idea of the sex market. Opposed to the black-box, economic notion of autonomous markets, the notion of the sex market places the explanatory focus on local social and cultural structures that limit or channel sexual behavior. In other words, we emphasize the way in which actors' social embeddedness in personal networks, meaning systems and sexual scripts, local organizations, and urban spaces leads to different patterns of sexual partnering, sexual behaviors, and sexual-relationship outcomes. Thus, the sex market is the spatially and culturally bounded arena in which searches for sex partners and a variety of exchanges or transactions are conducted. Readers should note that, throughout this study, we distinguish between sex markets generally (i.e., the general social/relational structure in which the search for a sex partner takes place) and particular sexual marketplaces (i.e., the specific places where one goes to find a sex partner). In the remainder of this section we give a general overview of the model. In subsequent sections we discuss its constitutive elements in more detail.

We start with the premise that an interrelated set of social forces organizes sex markets and influences the outcomes of the partnerships that are formed and the exchanges that occur within them. Hypothetically, everyone in a given population (e.g., the entire adult population of Chicago) is a potential sex partner for everyone else, but, in reality, the population is divided into highly differentiated pools of buyers and sellers. Networks, local sexual meaning systems, institutional legitimators of particular sexual identities and sex practices, and the designation of space for sexual activity shape how individuals construct and maintain different types of sex markets and organize different types of sexual relationships.

A brief example will make this claim more concrete. Residents of neighborhood A believe that homosexual identity and behavior are immoral and that heterosexual marriage is the only moral way in which to express one's sexuality. These beliefs are conveyed through the socializing practices of an individual's family and work networks, and they are reinforced by the public messages of salient and powerful institutional actors, such as religious organizations and social-service providers. In turn, the lack of cultural and institutional support for same-sex sexuality will discourage individuals from creating social spaces that serve a lesbian and gay population (e.g., bars and clubs, businesses that cater to a lesbian or gay clientele). Under such conditions, we expect that the same-sex market in this type of neighborhood will be forced underground, created in private spaces, or that the search for same-sex sex partners will have to be conducted outside the neighborhood. In short, different configurations of these broad social forces will lead to the construction of different types of sex markets, each with a particular set of legitimated search practices and a range of sanctioned transactions.

In earlier studies (e.g., Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994), we explained sexual partnerships and sex events by examining how they were differentially organized across the life course and by master status (e.g., race, gender, age). Master status and life course are, of course, still important explanatory variables, but, here, we attempt to contextualize both. That is, instead of treating a particular master status as uniform in meaning or effect, we argue that a particular status (e.g., white male) is associated with particular outcomes (e.g., concurrent hetero- and homosexual partners) because that status is embedded within a set of social networks and local sexual norms that proscribe some market activities and encourage others. For example, an African American woman born and raised in the African American neighborhood of Southtown but now living in the predominately white neighborhood of Shoreland will have a different market experience than will an African American woman born and raised and still living in Southtown. The former is less likely to have family and church in close proximity, and her dominant reference group may no longer be African American. Under such conditions, she may be less tied to the sexual norms and institutional surveillance governing sexual activity in Southtown and, thus, be freer to pursue relationships with white men or other women.

Thus, in our approach, we place the individual in a mutually constitutive relation with the sex market. Individuals, having particular profiles of master statuses as well as sexual interests, tastes, and preferences, must negotiate the social networks and the operative institutional actors of their social world. For example, a middle-class white male from suburban Chicago most likely will have had his sexual interests formed by his particular life experiences: the socialization processes peculiar to his family, religion, school, and work and the images of beauty and messages about sexual desire and behavior absorbed through media exposure. While he initially relies on these extant tastes, interests, and preferences when he enters the sexual marketplaces of a city neighborhood like Shoreland, his interaction within those marketplaces may subsequently alter them. He may change his interests when he realizes that professional women in the city dress or wear their hair differently than women in the suburbs do (thus altering his notions of sexual attractiveness), that certain types of women are not available in these city marketplaces, or that in these marketplaces he can find partners who are willing to engage in sex practices that potential partners in his suburban home wish to avoid.

Sex markets, and especially particular marketplaces, are organized to facilitate or hinder the formation of specific types of partnerships. For example, some markets are structured to help individuals develop long-term relationships (social networks acting to discourage one-night stands), while others are set up to allow for short-term sexual exchanges or transactions. As argued above, markets are shaped and constrained by a variety of institutionalized forces, but they also operate according to an internal logic and set of rules. The use of clothing in gay bars to signal one's preferences in partners and activities is one such example. The partnerships that are formed and the interactions that occur within markets also lead to different sexual outcomes, which in turn may alter market behavior or the norms of a market. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may be more likely to result from short-term, anonymous sexual partnerships formed in same-sex marketplaces than from long-term, dating partnerships (either heterosexual or homosexual) established through family or friend networks. Thus, individuals who contract an STI via a short-term exchange may alter their partner preferences or behaviors or switch from a "transactional" to a "relational" marketplace. At the same time, outcomes may be more directly shaped by their embeddedness within group cultures and particular institutional spheres. For example, the sexual jealousy that emerges from a cohabitational relationship may be derived from double standards about sex roles in a group's culture. Institutional control over sexual outcomes is most evident in the efforts of public-health agents to inculcate a belief in the practice of safe sex in targeted populations.

Conceptualizing Sex Markets

The idea of treating the search for sex partners as taking place in a market is not novel. As in many other areas of social life, in the sexual arena market metaphors are commonly used to describe how partners find and evaluate one another. For example, certain meeting places, typically bars, are commonly known as meat markets, and those lucky enough to acquire a sex partner in such places frequently compare notes with friends to assess the quality of their catch. However, despite the fact that the market metaphor is nearly ubiquitous in public discourse about the search for sex or marriage partners, because its meaning varies from one place to another it is sufficiently ambiguous to raise the question whether the concept has been adequately specified in sociological research. Are markets made up of people or institutions or both? How do personal traits, such as race, ethnicity, education, religion, and age, factor into the dynamics of markets: are they goods to be exchanged, are they ways of signaling quality, or do they constitute the boundaries of the markets themselves? Indeed, it is our belief that conceptual ambiguity over what actually constitutes a sex market or a marriage market currently hinders the study of the formation, organization, and dissolution of partnerships.

From the economic perspective, the answers to these questions are clear. Defined analogously to the term product market, the term marriage market, or matching market, refers to a collection of women and men seeking marriage partners among the opposite gender. In other words, a matching market consists of two populations—men and women—that together compose the market and involves individuals offering themselves as bundles of traits in all-or-nothing exchanges (Mortensen, 1988). This also makes matching markets unique from product markets in the sense that the goods to be exchanged are both heterogeneous and indivisible. Thus, the matching market involves a set of individuals with differentiating characteristics that allow for subjective rankings according to individual preferences. One should note that this leaves two important issues unspecified: (1) the processes through which the pool of market participants is identified and, therefore, the compositional characteristics (e.g., wealth, education, gender, and racial composition) of market participants determined and (2) the processes through which preferences are formed.

Nevertheless, the power of the economic perspective derives from its focus on the dynamics and properties of matching markets once the population has been specified. An important advance in this area was the integration of theoretical work on marriage markets with matching algorithms (see, e.g., Gale & Shapley, 1962; Becker, 1973, 1981; Mortensen, 1988). According to Mortensen (1988), a stable match order is generated when no matched individual prefers to be single and no one prefers another match over his or her current partner. However, economists have long been aware that actual matching conditions radically depart from an efficient marriage market (Becker, Landes, & Michael, 1977; Becker, 1981; Mortensen, 1988; Frey & Eichenberger, 1996). To explain this gap, researchers have incorporated search-theoretic concepts into their models to account for the high transaction costs and uncertainty. Since search can be costly, the optimality of a matching market is characterized primarily by its efficiency, with higher search costs generating more mismatches. An important factor making search costly for individuals seeking a match on similar characteristics (e.g., ethnicity, race, class), especially when such a match is rare, is that average characteristics are more readily encountered in the market (Becker, Landes, & Michael, 1977). Overall, economists would argue that individuals frequently search for partners in school and at work because search costs are reduced there and information about prospective partners tends to be better.

The primary issue with the economic approach to matching markets is its exclusive focus on individual-level characteristics and dynamics. We suggest that this perspective overstates the role of individuals at the expense of that of institutional forces. For example, is it more useful to think about preferences as exogenous to market dynamics or as endogenously generated? This is an old debate between sociologists and economists, and we do not propose to solve it here. Instead, we focus in this study on the processes, both individual and institutional, that constitute the boundaries in which market-like dynamics occur. Specifically, we intend to analyze the unique contribution of each in relation to a number of market dimensions, including what determines the pool of eligible market participants, the sources of preferences, and the environments in which individuals locate one another.

We are also building on the work of those sociologists who have already investigated how social structure affects the organization of marriage markets. For the most part, sociological critiques of matching markets have focused on the two areas, noted above, that economists left unspecified: the nature of preference formation and the structural constraints of the marriage market. Research on the sociological nature of preference formation has focused on comparing cultural and socioeconomic statuses (DiMaggio & Mohr, 1985; Kalmijn, 1991b, 1994) as well as on investigating the importance of gender and economic roles (England & Farkas, 1986; England & Kilbourne, 1990). Other researchers have focused on specifying the structural constraints of the marriage market with regard to age and sex ratios (Oppenheimer, 1988), education (Mare, 1991), and propinquity (Kalmijn, 1991b; Lichter, LeClere, & McLaughlin, 1991; South & Lloyd, 1995). There has also been some work done on how social characteristics, such as occupation, act as signals for quality (Kalmijn, 1994). Taken together, most of this literature has sought to demonstrate how traditional sociological variables, such as education, occupational status, or gender, influence the economist's purely individual-level model. Few of these extensions, however, directly challenge the black-box conceptualization of the market itself, even though Oppenheimer (1988) noted that there is substantial ambiguity about what market behavior is in the first place.

The central theoretical focus of our work highlights markets as social structures. We believe that studies of matching markets can benefit from the insights of economic sociology, which recognized early on that markets are socially constructed (see, e.g., White, 1981; Faulkner & Anderson, 1987; Podolny, 1993; Baker, Faulkner, & Fisher, 1998). In this study, we argue that individuals searching for partners are involved in the joint social construction of matching markets. Drawing on Harrison White's (1981) now-classic statement on product markets, we propose that orthodox economic and sociological theorizing about matching be embedded within this sociological view of markets. The basic unit organizing our analysis is the sex market, defined as a subsystem of a community whose participants are mutually relevant to one another and generally share some common orientation by observing each other's strategies and evaluative criteria regarding sexual partnering. (Readers should be aware that, as noted earlier, sex markets are distinct from sexual marketplaces, defined as specific places within the city where one goes to meet potential sex partners.) One important feature of a sex market is that the actions and strategies of the participants serve a feedback role, confirming each individual's "rational" expectations of what are effective and appropriate strategies (White, 1981). The central problem facing participants, then, is not comparing alternatives but, rather, finding out what the alternatives are in the first place (Geertz, 1992). In short, we seek to provide the reader with a series of discussions about various structural aspects of sex markets.

What, then, are the relevant structural features of markets? In the sections of this chapter that follow, we characterize three kinds of structural features, features that are not necessarily mutually exclusive but that capture the notion that there are micro- and macroaspects of markets. These are the structuring of individual sexual choices by roles and positions, by local brokers, and by the social and cultural embeddedness of sex markets. Structuring by roles and positions emphasizes the ways in which individuals create and re-create markets through their choices of partners, relationship types, and search venues. Structuring by local brokers emphasizes the ways in which individuals, networks, clubs, voluntary associations, formal organizations, and other social institutions facilitate partnering within and, quite often, between sex markets. Structuring by the social and cultural embeddedness of sex markets emphasizes how those markets are constrained by particular social networks, sexual cultures, and institutions.

Structuring by Roles and Positions

There are two fundamental dimensions characterizing sex-market transactions: the quality and the form of sexual relationships. The former focuses on how sex markets designate quality among the pool of eligible partners, the latter on how sex markets organize expectations about sexual interactions themselves. Economists argue that the quality of the sexual relationship is determined by the quality of the individuals involved as well as by their preferences. We suggest that quality is unknown, that, instead, market participants rely on the status ordering of potential partners as a proxy or, in essence, a signal for quality. An important difference between the economic theory of signals and the one presented here is that we follow Podolny (1993), who suggested a loose linkage, mediated by other actors, between signal and quality. Specifically, social networks and organizations, embedded within a particular local social space and sexual culture, bias subjective evaluations as well as rendering these biased evaluations consistent over time. We expect that individuals associated with high-status others or prestigious institutions receive positively biased evaluations of their own status position, evaluations that are independent of actual quality.

Sex markets are distinct from one another to the extent that there is a well-defined status order among them. Individuals can, therefore, occupy different status positions, depending on the sex market in which they find themselves participating and where they are in their sexual careers. The institutional level of social organization, which again includes the larger cultural scenarios, social networks, physical space, and local organizations, is particularly important because it provides the boundaries of a sex market with a taken-for-granted quality as well as serving as an important segregating mechanism. For example, we have collected data on a white-male, same-sex market concentrated in a neighborhood that we call Shoreland. This market is widely recognized, regardless of sexual orientation, as a gay neighborhood and features extensive organizational support for same-sex lifestyles, including bars, voluntary associations, and extensive social networks as well as public gatherings. Indeed, this sex market operates cheek by jowl with an almost equally vibrant opposite-sex market, but the boundaries are so distinct that the partnering strategies of one market are rarely mistakenly applied in the other. Nevertheless, when an individual participates in multiple sex markets, his or her status is likely to change accordingly.

Figure 1.1 presents a conceptual diagram of the organization of sex markets in Chicago. In much of this book, we assume that the boundaries of sex markets are defined by two important status characteristics: sexual orientation and ethnicity or race. Thus, in figure 1.1, the ovals represent distinct sex markets, while the crosses indicate specific sexual marketplaces. Note that some sexual marketplaces act as bridges, facilitating interaction between participants from different sex markets. Crosses located at the intersection of two or more sex markets indicate these bridges.

Regarding expectations about the form of sexual interaction, we argue that sex markets are composed of a varying distribution of role structures for men and women. By role structures we mean the distinct symbolic codes operative in a given market concerning the rules of exchange and interaction between participants. Market participants commonly hold important expectations regarding the exclusivity of sexual partnering and the form of sexual interaction. These expectations emphasize the role that social structure plays in defining appropriate behavior. For example, certain social situations, such as the search for a partner in a public park, are organized to encourage casual sexual partnerships characterized by transactional sexual behaviors and little expectation of exclusivity. Others, however, such as the search for a partner through one's social network, are organized to encourage the formation of more enduring and exclusive relationships and discourage transactional sexual behaviors.

In the literature on marriage markets, marriages are seen as implicit, long-term contracts (England & Farkas, 1986). In contrast, sexual relationships can be of two types: one-time encounters (spot transactions) or dating situations. We refer to the former relationship type as transactional and to the latter as relational. Since both types are subject to moral hazards and uncertainty (i.e., actors are unsure of the intentions of potential partners), there is a strong tendency to embed relationships. That is, just as status and quality are linked, the rules of exchange, which are distinct for each sex market, are linked (albeit loosely) with relationship form (e.g., transactional or relational, monogamous or nonmonogamous). Here, again, social institutions play an important mediating role by trying to establish distinct codes of conduct.

Up to this point, we have focused solely on the internal organization of sex markets with respect to status positions and roles. This raises the analytically prior question of the nature of the external organization of sex markets, the question, in other words, of how sex-market boundaries are constituted. Since sex markets are distinct collective systems organizing sexual behavior, each market constitutes a kind of niche, being characterized by its own institutionalized boundaries and internal processes (Hannan & Freeman, 1977; McPherson, 1983). Our perspective is agnostic about what distinguishes different populations and, thus, markets; we make no assertions about the centrality of one status over another (e.g., cultural vs. economic). Instead, we focus on the local segregating and blending processes that create distinct boundaries between populations. That sex markets are distinct collective systems also suggests that they go through developmental stages, the early stages marked by less institutionalized boundaries, role structures, and status orders, the later by more objective social structures.

The fact that there are distinct sex markets accounts for the importance of competition both within and between different populations/markets and, thus, the importance of the actual composition of the pool of eligible partners. For example, competition within an opposite-sex market will be affected by the relative ratio of men to women. Any imbalance places individuals of the less well represented gender in a superior market position, one that enables them to select higher-quality partners. An imbalance may also cause members of the more well represented gender to search in other sex markets. However, the search process is also guided by group norms as to the qualities—younger or older, taller or shorter, black or white—distinguishing preferred partners.

The power of group norms is evident in the case of heterosexual African American women, who face a market situation characterized by a lack of status-equal black men. They have, however, few other options since white and Hispanic men continue to value "whiteness" in their sex partners. This preference for whiteness results, in part, because white and Hispanic men are embedded within social networks that discourage interracial relationships and are, further, closed to black women. Thus, the combination of population dynamics and the institutionalization of role structures and status orders creates substantial coordination problems for the process of matching appropriate individuals.

The significance of the internal structuring and population dynamics of sex markets is that these are the bases on which individuals make their choices about markets in which to participate. Thus, a fundamental question that we seek to answer is how individuals in the CHSLS interface with sex markets. Our interest here is in search behavior and the patterning of sexual networks as well as in the socioemotional consequences of these behaviors (e.g., the social distribution of sexual jealousy).

Structuring by Local Brokers

Because of their relative permanence, or inertia, relative to individuals, brokers provide the basis for the continuing social construction for both individuals and organizational actors and, thus, coordinate partnering strategies. In our study, the term local brokers refer to networks or organizations that act as coordinators for individuals within the same sex market or as liaisons between different sex markets. Moreover, local brokers frequently act as gatekeepers, discouraging classes of individuals from participating in a particular sex market. A public park is one example of a social space that serves as a local broker coordinating individuals located in different sex markets.

However, even if local brokers facilitate partnering, the goal of matching sex partners does not necessarily coincide with brokers' own social organizational goals. For example, the primary purpose of most networks of friends is not to match partners. Rather, matching partners is usually a secondary, unintended consequence of other activities. Further, not all a broker's activities can accommodate matching behavior, as evinced by the practice common among religious institutions of setting aside singles' nights for just this purpose. Thus, brokers can be conceptualized as varying as to the degree in which searching for partners is expected and actively encouraged, or, simply, the degree of marketization.

Brokers vary according to the degree to which matching is coupled with other organizational goals. Coupling can, for example, be quite loose, as in the case of a religious institution attended primarily by singles, where matching is not the primary purpose and is, therefore, likely to conflict with other, more important activities. Or it can be direct, as in the case of a gay bathhouse, whose primary purpose is matching sex partners. We term those networks or institutions that are primarily oriented toward matching sex partners, or that are highly marketized, direct sexual marketplaces. Typical examples of direct sexual marketplaces include bars and dance clubs, bathhouses, personal ads, and such informal settings as private parties and public parks. Health clubs and voluntary organizations also occasionally fall into this category. We term those networks or institutions that are not primarily oriented toward matching sex partners but that occasionally facilitate search, or that are moderately marketized, mediated sexual marketplaces. Typical examples of mediated sexual marketplaces include churches' singles' nights and blind dates set up by friends. We expect direct sexual marketplaces and mediated sexual marketplaces to encourage different types of sexual partnerships and behaviors, with the former focused more on transactional partnerships (e.g., one-night stands) and the latter more on relational ones (e.g., long-term dating relationships).

Structuring by the Social and Cultural Embeddedness of Sex Markets

As suggested above, sex markets do not exist in isolation but are embedded within a local social system that powerfully constrains or channels the market activities of individuals. Like Granovetter (1985), we argue that individuals neither make choices about sexual partnering outside the network of social relations in which they find themselves, as suggested by the economic approaches to matching markets, nor slavishly follow behavioral scripts, as suggested by pure constructivist accounts. Rather, explaining sexual partnering and the various outcomes that follow from it (e.g., marriage, disease) rests on understanding how type and degree of social embeddedness limit opportunities, narrow sexual choices, and, more generally, push individuals to search for certain types of partners, follow certain sexual scripts, and engage in certain sexual behaviors. We argue that four interrelated social constraints—social networks of market participants, space, sexual culture, and organizations within different institutional spheres—structure and regulate sex markets in a number of ways. First, they may define normative frameworks that code some partners, behaviors, and relationships as legitimate, moral, or safe and others as illegitimate, immoral, or unsafe. Second, these constraints may provide opportunities for individuals to meet potential partners. Finally, sex markets may be constrained by the sanctioning and surveillance activities of the networks and institutions in which individuals are embedded. We devote the rest of this section to detailing the operations of these four factors.

SOCIAL NETWORKS. Social networks have distinct effects on sexual partnering through two major mechanisms: information and control. As for information, because social networks tend to be composed of people with similar characteristics and, therefore, structure contact between members, information of necessity circulates among members. This information includes where to go, whom to approach for introductions, and proper manners once introduced. For example, because the lesbian sexual marketplaces are widely dispersed and not easily identified, one of the most important functions of lesbian social networks is the dissemination of information about which bars or clubs are the most likely places in which to meet other lesbians. Social networks also convey information about the intentions of potential partners. For example, potential partners may be more likely to trust one another if they are introduced by a mutual friend than if they meet through a personal ad.

As for control, third parties—parents, children, close friends, colleagues—often act as stakeholders, influencing the kind of person one chooses as a sex partner and interfering with relationships of which they disapprove. Moreover, attached to one's roles within given networks are normative expectations regarding sexual behaviors and relationships. Parents, for example, may pressure children to seek potential marriage partners with certain preferred characteristics (e.g., churchgoing, college educated). Or they may pressure a son to marry his pregnant girlfriend if she is the daughter of a family friend more strongly than they would if she is an outsider. The more firmly embedded individuals are in a network, the more likely other network members are to influence their sex-market choices. For example, individuals who live far from their families face few constraints on partner choice and relationship organization because family expectations are, if not less salient, then certainly less easily enforced. In all these ways social networks can act as arbiters of sexual relationships, setting boundaries for their members (Eggert & Parks, 1987; Parks, Stan, & Eggert, 1983; Johnson & Milardo, 1984).

Given that these information and control mechanisms structure sexual partnering, we therefore expect network embeddedness to constrain the pool of potential partners. For example, a middle-class, twenty-something white woman who socializes primarily with twenty-something white men and women from work or school in the white neighborhood of Shoreland is unlikely to develop sexual partnerships with persons of color or those from lower-class backgrounds. We also expect networks to affect the nature or quality of sexual partnerships. For example, people with few social ties are more likely both to conduct their partner searches in direct sexual marketplaces (e.g., in singles bars or through personal ads) and, because of a lack of social support and monitoring, to end up in short-term relationships. Conversely, people with strong social ties are more likely to conduct their partner searches in mediated sexual marketplaces and to end up in long-term relationships. We further expect the decision of whether to embed a relationship in one's social network to be a conscious one. For example, individuals who are seeking casual relationships will avoid embedding those relationships in their social networks, just as those who are seeking serious relationships will work to embed those relationships in their social networks.

SPACE. Physical space plays two roles in the structure of sex markets. It both delimits the geographic boundaries of sex markets generally and organizes specific sexual marketplaces.

First, space delimits sex markets in that, realistically, people can search for a partner and initiate and develop a sexual relationship only within a reasonable geographic proximity. Since most people do not travel extensively in the course of their daily lives, few, if any, find long-distance relationships to be feasible—owing to the time and monetary costs involved. Thus, sexual partnering is essentially a local activity.

While physical propinquity has been recognized as a factor in mate selection for some time (e.g., Burgess, 1943; Ramsoy, 1966; Peach, 1974), most studies of mate selection ignore the role of physical space, often treating the entire nation as one large marriage market in which everyone theoretically has access to everyone else (Mare, 1991; Kalmijn, 1991a, 1991b, 1994; Qian, 1998; Smits, Ultee, & Lammers, 1998; Spanier, 1980). These analyses lose sight of the fact that mate selection occurs within a geographically bounded area and is, therefore, limited by that area's demographics, social networks, cultural understandings, and institutions.

Even studies of mate selection on the city level (Blau, Blum, & Schwartz, 1982; Blau, Beeker, & Fitzpatrick, 1984) or the labor-market-area level (Lichter, McLaughlin, Kephart, & Landry, 1992) mask neighborhood differences in sexual-partnering opportunities. For example, a woman living in a Mexican American neighborhood who does not have a car and conducts most of her routine activities (e.g., shopping and socializing) in that neighborhood is unlikely to meet potential partners from other areas of the city. High levels of residential segregation mean that racial and ethnic groups are isolated from each other even within the same city (Massey & Denton, 1993). Owing to both physical boundaries (i.e., railroads, highways, rivers) and social boundaries (race, language, culture), the city is divided into distinct communities with distinct demographic characteristics, institutions, social-network patterns, and normative orientations, all of which affect sexual partnering.

In addition, how public and private spaces are regulated by institutional actors may influence the way in which different markets operate. The lack of private space within the family home in the Mexican neighborhood of Westside—the result of large families and small houses as well as cultural norms strictly regulating female sexuality—leads young, single residents to make public spaces such as schools, street corners, and parks primary venues for conducting partner searches. Thus, distinct neighborhood contexts may foster different sexual-partnering processes and sexual marketplaces.

Second, within particular geographic spaces, individuals organize their social relations around activities that take place within specific locations, such as workplaces, parks, and churches, and are more likely to form ties with the people they meet there (Feld, 1981; McPherson, 1982; Wasserman & Faust, 1994). Urban spaces thus become meeting places for people in search of particular types of partners or particular types of sexual activities. Some urban spaces are publicly known or designated as direct sexual marketplaces, such as red-light districts, while other spaces whose primary purpose is not sexual (e.g., workplaces) may operate secondarily as mediated sexual marketplaces. Some marketplaces attract individuals from across the city, while others are created for and used by only groups within one neighborhood (e.g., the weekend dance parties held at small clubs in Chicago's African American neighborhood of Southtown).

Moreover, space and sexual culture are often related. Some marketplaces are tied to particular interpersonal scripts that further help coordinate market activities (see Duyves, 1994). For example, an eight-block area of Erlinda is used as a sexual marketplace for men interested in oral sex with prostitutes, especially Hispanic and African American prostitutes. Or gay men involved in bondage and other forms of sadomasochism frequent certain bars in Shoreland.

Sexual space is not restricted to marketplace institutions that are organized to coordinate searches and transactions efficiently (e.g., bars, dance clubs). Space in more diffuse relational markets may also be constructed as a site for partnering activity. Perhaps the best illustration of this is the city women's softball league. The park space is set up primarily for softball games, but, over time, it has been defined secondarily as a place where lesbians from the Chicagoland area can come to meet friends, socialize, and possibly develop sexual relationships. Health clubs, volunteer organizations, and churches may come to be coded by particular groups as places in which to conduct searches for potential partners. Co-opting space not primarily defined as a sexual marketplace is an important way of making partner search in more diffuse sex markets more efficient, as suggested in the following comment by a pastor of a Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) congregation in Shoreland:

The MCC also serves as a social place because you can assume that others there are also gay. It's like a gay bar in that sense, but a better environment for people not comfortable with bars. How do people find lovers and establish monogamous relationships? There are rules for this among heterosexual couples, but how do you do this when you're gay? It requires that you be out to your potential partner and they to you. The MCC is a safe place to assume this of other members. Also, what better place to meet than at church? I feel that a big problem faced by couples is coming from different religious backgrounds. Meeting in the same church reduces the possibility of this happening.

In short, when space is collectively defined as sexual, it improves market coordination because it signals the type of partner, sexual activities, and possible relationships that one can expect to find there.

SEXUAL CULTURE. While understanding the geographic boundaries of sex markets generally and the ways in which particular sexual marketplaces are organized is relatively easy, understanding how to negotiate a given market is more difficult. This requires a familiarity with and, in many ways, a mastery of the system of meanings, that is, the sexual culture, of a market.

A sex market is governed both by an internal sexual culture and by an external sexual culture.

The term internal sexual culture refers to the set of scripts that inform and guide sexual behaviors, preferences, and identities within a given market. These scripts provide information about how and where to search for partners, roles to adopt (e.g., top or bottom in male same-sex markets), behavioral expectations (e.g., no intercourse before the third date or mutual orgasm as the ideal outcome), and the relative values of potential partners. Internal sexual cultures may be heavily influenced by a specific group culture surrounding a market. For example, many of our Hispanic informants discussed how machismo and gender roles that privilege men structure sex markets and sexual relationships and lead to specific outcomes—from male same-sex transactions that are not stigmatized, to sexual jealousy that erupts into domestic violence, to high expectations about female virginity (see Almaguer, 1991; Alonso & Koreck, 1993). Or internal sexual cultures may develop their own rules. For example, prostitutes expect their johns to follow a certain behavioral script (e.g., no kissing), and deviations are not sanctioned.

The term external sexual culture refers to sets of meanings that help individuals organize sex markets. It can best be understood by reference to Simon and Gagnon's (1987, 364) notion of cultural scenarios—or "paradigmatic assemblies of the social norms that impinge on sexual behavior." These widely shared ideas and images about appropriate sexual objects, aims, and activities define the boundaries of sex markets and inform how individuals and institutional actors value sexual relationships, partner preferences, and behavioral repertoires. These scenarios, often conveyed through popular song lyrics and music videos, films, and magazines like Cosmopolitan and Playboy, define broad ideals about sexual orientations (heterosexual), gender roles (male dominance or equality), and relationships (marriage or monogamy) that undergird interaction within sex markets. Market participants take their cues about what constitutes the erotic and desirable, the safe and the risky, from cultural scenarios. For example, the notion that large-breasted, thin-waisted women are more desirable than small breasted, wide-hipped women—as conveyed through fashion magazines, Barbie dolls, and animated figures in cartoons and video games—may lead an individual to search for potential partners who have these physical characteristics and avoid those who do not.

Thus, sexual cultures—both internal and external—provide the criteria according to which individuals construct their partner preferences and rank order market participants.

Sexual cultures will be powerful and binding to the degree that they are carried by institutional actors who have a stake in the processes and outcomes of market participation and who also exert control over individuals. The meaning systems and scripts that guide sexual behaviors and relationships do not exist independently of institutional actors. Key stakeholders—for example, members of one's family or one's church—devise and reinforce messages about appropriate and inappropriate potential partners (e.g., must be a practicing Catholic) or partnerships (e.g., cohabitation forbidden) and threaten to punish deviations from cultural expectations. Individuals who are more tightly linked to these stakeholders (e.g., those who attend church regularly) are more likely to follow the normative prescriptions about sexuality that they advance (see Sherkat & Ellison, 1997; Cochran & Beeghley, 1991; Thornton & Camburn, 1989; Hertel & Hughes, 1987). Some stakeholders, like schools and public-health agencies, may attempt to regulate sex markets by devising and reinforcing messages about sex practices (e.g., always use a condom, "just say no!") and the moral status of behaviors and their outcomes within different cultural scenarios (Nathanson, 1991; Markova & Wilkie, 1987; Herdt, 1992b).

INSTITUTIONS. Institutional control of sexual identity and behavior is a common theme in histories and contemporary accounts of sexuality. Some accounts suggest that institutional actors exert strong control over sexuality by outlawing certain practices and identities, restricting access to potential partners or at least raising the costs of access, and, more generally, defining what kinds of partners and search practices are legitimate. According to Foucault (1990), for example, medicine, education, religion, the police, and the family powerfully channel sexual behavior and identity into particular forms (e.g., heterosexual, monogamous marriage) through stigmatization, socialization, and surveillance (see also Chauncey, 1994; D'Emilio, 1983; DeLamater, 1981). Institutional control continues indirectly as individuals internalize norms regarding sexuality and, thus, become self-regulating. Academic and popular treatments of the medicalization of AIDS and the rise of safe-sex interventions suggest that the efforts of public-health organizations to slow or stop the disease have changed the structure of some gay sex markets by altering search processes, partnering choices, and behavioral repertoires (see Murray 1996, 99-142; Aveline, 1995; Ostrow, Beltran, & Joseph, 1994; Davidson, 1991; Shilts, 1987).

At the same time, many accounts identify the inefficiencies of institutional control and suggest that individuals and groups often circumvent the norms and restrictions that are intended to govern sexual activities. This is evinced in the literature on gay and lesbian communities, especially gay resistance to the safe-sex paradigm (Murray, 1996; Sadownick, 1996), in work on adolescent sexuality (e.g., Nathanson, 1991), and in accounts of the Sexual Revolution and its consequences (D'Emilio & Freedman, 1988). Consistently high rates of premarital sexual activity and the liberalization of attitudes toward sexuality as documented in the NHSLS, the CHSLS, and the GSS (General Social Survey) suggest that the surveillance and socialization powers of religion and family have declined (see Joyner & Laumann, 2001). Thus, the empirical work on sexuality suggests that organizations in different institutional spheres exercise direct and indirect, strong and weak control over market activities. But how and why control is exercised (or not) has not been an explicit object of inquiry or theorization. Surprisingly, even the "new institutionalism" literature provides little help. However, both literatures provide enough clues to piece together a nascent theory of how institutional actors influence sex markets.

A common premise in recent work on institutions is that each institutional order (e.g., family, politics, medicine) has a central logic, framework, or organizing principle that orders reality, "defines ends, and shapes the means by which interests are determined and pursued" (DiMaggio & Powell, 1991, 10; see also Friedland & Alford, 1991; Haveman & Rao, 1997). In other words, each institutional sphere has a primary goal or goals and a set of rules and practices by which to realize those goals. Moreover, these frameworks serve as lenses through which institutional actors see the world—helping them identify social problems and their causes—and as guides for acting in the world. For example, the central framework within medicine is to preserve and prolong health, and actors follow a biomedical model of disease and treatment. This leads health-care practitioners to minimize or ignore the social, cultural, and economic causes of disease (e.g., poverty) and focus their attention on treating the immediate biological symptoms. Thus, institutional actors have a model for "how to do something," but that model constrains opportunity and action because it focuses attention on a narrowly defined imperative (see Clemens & Cook, 1999, 445). Areas of social life that fall outside the mandate of an institutional sphere likely will be treated as an externality—something that demands attention only when it begins to impinge on the resources of a particular institutional actor.

Sexuality is one of those areas. There is no one institutional sphere primarily concerned with sexuality (the family may be the closest), nor do most institutional actors make strong claims for ownership. As a result, sexuality is an institutional stepchild, tending to be acted on when it threatens to disrupt the institutional order or when participants in a particular sex market bring sexual concerns to institutional actors. Once sexuality is placed on the agenda of some organization, that organization becomes a stakeholder with a set of interests and goals to protect or to advance and deals with sexuality according to its institutionally specific framework. Institutional actors then draw on a preexisting set of symbolic resources by which they articulate a specific normative understanding of sexuality and identify what constitutes a sexual problem, who or what is to blame, and how to resolve it. Health-care organizations address sexuality in terms of how sexual behavior affects personal and public health and attempt to organize the sex market to minimize the health risks of sexual activity (e.g., by promoting safe-sex campaigns). From the perspective of the police, sexual expression becomes problematic only when it threatens to upset the social order or to violate the law. The logic and practices of policing limit market interventions to conflict resolution or incarceration, as with domestic violence, and the institutional framework of policing excludes more general efforts to influence an individual's partner preferences, behavioral repertoires, or understandings of valuable sexual capital.

An important tool of institutional stakeholders is the causal stories used to make sense of the sex market and justify institutional action. Causal stories are accounts that "describe harms and difficulties, attribute them to the action of other individuals and organizations, and thereby claim the right to invoke governmental [or some other institutionally based] power to stop the harm" (Stone, 1989, 282). The import of causal stories is illustrated in Nathanson's (1991) work on adolescent sexuality. Nathanson identifies three causal models of teen pregnancy: one model considers pregnancy to be the outcome of social, political, and medical barriers that limit teenagers' access to contraception and abortion services; a second sees it as the outcome of the state's legitimization of sexual permissiveness through the subsidization of family-planning services; and the third views it as the outcome of deeply rooted cultural and social problems (e.g., the culture of poverty). She goes on to note how the causal stories inform and justify particular interventions or solutions on the part of different institutional actors. For example, some health-care organizations rely on the first model to advocate for federal funding of family-planning services, condom distribution in public schools, and safe-sex education campaigns, while some political actors promote abstinence as the appropriate solution and work to end federal or state funding of family planning.

Causal stories become a key means of constructing particular normative definitions of moral (read: safe vs. risky, legal vs. illegal, functional vs. dysfunctional) sexual expression. These stories often draw on and reinforce widely held cultural scenarios about sexuality in the United States and, thus, indirectly shape sex markets by setting standards for appropriate behaviors, partners, and venues for search. As illustrated in the example given above, conservative political actors' causal story about teen pregnancy defines heterosexual marriage as the only legitimate relationship in which sexual behavior can be expressed, upholds, at least implicitly, the sexual double standard that marks virgins as good girls, and delegitimates a set of behaviors (e.g., extramarital intercourse) and relationships (nonmarital unions).

Organizations within different institutional orders may exert both direct and indirect control over sex markets. Direct control may be seen in behavioral changes that follow from sex-education programs or in the incarceration of individuals who abuse family members. We expect direct control to be less common as most institutional actors consider sexuality to be a secondary or tertiary concern and address it in a compartmentalized rather than a holistic manner. In addition, the widespread suspicion of organizations and institutions in U.S. society and the weakening of institutional surveillance and regulatory power make direct control less likely. We expect that indirect control will be the more common pattern of institutional constraint on sex markets. Indirect control may take a variety of forms. For example, organizations in various spheres that advance or support a particular relationship (e.g., heterosexual marriage) as normative may increase the power and salience of the script and, thus, shape the preferences and search patterns of some market participants. Alternatively, a safe-sex ideology articulated by health-care providers may not persuade people to use condoms until peers or potential partners also validate this message through their actions (e.g., demanding that a condom be worn during intercourse or talking about the virtues of practicing safe sex [see Kendall, 1994, 250-51]).

Brief overviews of two institutions—health care and social services—that we target in our study of sexuality in Chicago illustrate how institutional actors constrain and shape sex markets.

Organizations within health care (e.g., STD [sexually transmitted disease] clinics, public-health departments, or hospitals) approach sexuality from the perspective of the biomedical model, with the goals of restoring an individual to health and preventing the spread of disease to larger populations. The biomedical model starts with the notion that disease is fundamentally biological and that the social, psychological, and behavioral dimensions of illness are irrelevant or, at best, secondary to understanding its causes and treatment (see Engel, 1977). Cassell (1997, 48-49) notes:

Working within the scientific model of medicine, the social, psychological, and personal elements found in all illnesses do not logically follow from considerations of disease because of a fundamental assumption of the medical system: since diseases are biological entities, they are part of nature. From this assumption, it follows that they can be understood and investigated as material things—matter—just like the rest of nature. . . . Medical science, therefore, can examine the diseased body as a mechanism gone wrong. From this perspective, pathophysiology is independent of culture, consciousness, the meaning of things, morality, or spirit. This notion excludes thinking logically about social, psychological, ethical or personal issues within the same system—at the same time—as the mechanistic elements of disease.

Viewed through this framework, sexuality is problematized as an illness, and practitioners aim to treat the symptoms (e.g., prescribing penicillin for gonorrhea) or induce behavioral changes through education (e.g., sponsoring safe-sex campaigns). Even when health-care workers understand that social causes underlie sexual diseases and their transmission, the social is considered to be outside the scope or the reach of the organization. Thus, a health educator who works with Hispanic youths despaired that her efforts to teach her clients about safe sex and pass out condoms represented nothing more than "adding band aids to the surface"; the real causes of high rates of disease transmission—such social conditions as poverty, abusive families, and gang violence—remained unchanged. She noted that "the core issues facing youth in the neighborhood are not ultimately about HIV/AIDS"—which limits the interventions' effectiveness. Similarly, a clinician at a public STD clinic noted how difficult it is to convince individuals to change their sex practices and take care of their health when "the day-to-day priorities of their lives are not preventing STDs and HIV but finding work, food, and housing." When asked how the clinic could change behaviors, he framed his answers in the discourse of medicine: what could be done would be to help people "see that they need to care about their health status" and to develop "'stealth protection' for women—a gel that women could use to protect themselves from STDs, HIV, and pregnancy, without talking to the man about it. This way women would not have to negotiate condom use, and it would empower them in sexual situations."

Health-care organizations try to shape the market through problem definition and education. First, they create a set of sexual problems framed in terms of the biomedical model (i.e., sexual problems are conceptualized as conditions that are biological in nature and lead to personal and social harm, e.g., STDs, unintended pregnancy) and identify the "risky" behaviors and environments that are associated with these problems (e.g., unprotected sex, sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol). Second, they aim to educate patients and the general public about the risks and methods of protection (see Kendall, 1994). The goal is to change individuals' preferences for potential partners (e.g., avoid prostitutes) and sexual repertoires (e.g., stop having anal intercourse), and even the boundaries of sex markets, in order to minimize exposure to risk.

Organizations within the sphere of social service also rely on education as a means to control market activities, but they reach that intervention strategy from a different starting point. Social-service providers take on the mandate of "regulating social dependence" (Reid, 1992, 35). That is, they aim to move individuals from a state of being unproductive members of society to one in which they have a useful and self-sustaining role in family, work, and/or community. At a minimum, the social-service mandate aims to protect individuals from the consequences of dependence. The institutional framework advances the values of autonomy, empowerment, self-determination, and self-improvement, while institutional action to realize those values focuses on reform, rehabilitation, and reintegration (see Hartman, 1994, 15).

Sexuality and the sex market are placed in an explanatory frame that emphasizes risky behavior arising from the social or community context (e.g., gangs, a sense of fatalism arising from poverty, high rates of alcohol or substance abuse). Decisions to engage in unprotected sex as part of gang initiations or to trade sex for drug money are coded as bad or dysfunctional because they threaten to undercut individuals' independence and ability to function in society as well as their future life chances (e.g., the teen who becomes pregnant may be forced to drop out of school, a decision that, in turn, affects her occupational opportunities and may even affect her ability to care for her child). Educational interventions focus on teaching individuals how to recognize the contexts or situations that will lead them to make bad decisions and how to escape from them (e.g., counseling a woman to leave an abusive relationship and go to a women's shelter).

Social-service organizations also utilize a second type of intervention strategy—the provision of some sort of service. Such services can range from psychological or family-planning counseling, to health care, to condom-distribution or needle-exchange programs. Again, the goal is to empower individuals to avoid making sexual choices (e.g., partners, markets, or behaviors) that will place them in a state of social dependency. As in medicine, the effect on a sex market tends to be indirect.

An often-reported causal story among social workers in Erlinda and Westside (the two Hispanic neighborhoods in the study) illustrates how institutional actors in this sphere construct sexuality as a problem and attempt to alter market behavior. According to this causal story, the fundamental cause of sexual problems in these neighborhoods is the "culture of silence" surrounding sexuality that pervades Hispanic communities. This collective unwillingness or inability to speak about issues of sexuality with one's partner creates a social context in which individuals, especially girls and women, lack the basic biological facts about conception and disease transmission. Individuals are, therefore, unaware of what constitutes high- and low-risk behaviors or relationships. This causal story leads social workers to create basic sex-education programs to teach young people such things as how conception and disease transmission occur and how to put on a condom. The goal is to help them make better decisions and, thus, avoid the dependency problems that can arise from the unintended effects of sexual activity.

Relationship Maintenance

The maintenance and the internal dynamics of relationships are also significantly influenced by sex markets. After individuals have solved the problem of meeting partners, relationships must be either maintained or dissolved. Relationship maintenance has much to do with the dynamics of the sex market and the way in which the partners met. For example, bargaining power within relationships is a product, not only of one's contributions to the relationship, but also of one's alternatives outside the relationship (England & Farkas, 1986; Lennon & Rosenfield, 1994). The costs and benefits of staying in a relationship must be weighed against the opportunity costs of partnerships with other people. Thus, the availability of potential other partners may play a role in the maintenance of a current relationship.

However, aspects of the sex market other than the availability of other partners are also important for relationship maintenance. Perhaps most important, one's social network—acting as a stakeholder—may play an active role in maintaining or dissolving a relationship. Generally speaking, if the partner is accepted by the social network, social-network embeddedness can help build trust between partners, create shared norms and understandings between them, and provide them with information and other resources. On the other hand, if the partner is not accepted by the social network, social-network embeddedness can make it difficult to maintain the relationship. For example, Youm and Paik (chapter 6 in this volume) describe how the lack of social-network embeddedness can be used to explain part of the difference between the marriage rates of African Americans and those of whites. Whites tend to have more social-network support for their partnerships, and this means that they are more likely to get married.

Institutions also have a stake, and thus play a role, in the maintenance of some types of relationships and the dissolution of others. Some institutional actors simply work to end relationships that they see as destructive. For example, organizations that lobby for the incarceration of men who beat their wives make it harder to maintain abusive relationships. Other institutional actors consciously promote certain types of relationships over others. Religious organizations, for example, define certain sexual expressions as moral and others as immoral, thus helping to maintain the former (e.g., providing counseling to heterosexual married couples) and to disrupt the latter (e.g., refusing to recognize a homosexual cohabitational relationship as legitimate and attempting to break it up). Still other institutional actors unintentionally promote certain types of relationships. For example, when the police treat domestic-violence situations as "matters to be worked out between husband and wife," they are making it easier to maintain abusive relationships.

The characteristics of the relationship that is maintained, and the alternatives to maintaining it, are also influenced by the particular culture, or the expectations and norms, of a given sex market. For example, in a very conservative cultural context, cohabitation and divorce may simply not be considered options. This is typically the case among Mexican Americans, who tend to adhere to traditional Catholic norms. Ethnographic studies have also found that a sexual double standard exists among Mexican Americans whereby a husband's extramarital affair is not considered a threat to the marriage as long as he comes home to his wife and continues to support his family financially (see Horowitz, 1983). In other sex markets, however, such a partnership configuration would not be considered stable.

Finally, as it does in the sexual-partnering process, physical space also plays a role in relationship maintenance. Not only is one not likely to meet people who live far away, but, even if one does and, moreover, manages to establish a relationship, that relationship is more costly to maintain given the distance that the partners must travel in order to spend time together. Space can also be used in order to maintain concurrent relationships. For example, partners can be chosen who live far away from each other, keeping them from finding out about one another.

Limitations of the Market Approach

With the decline of marriage, the rise of cohabitation and divorce, and the decoupling of much of sexual expression from family life, the metaphor of the sex market is, as we have suggested above, apt for describing new patterns of adult singlehood and multiple partnering. In addition, the strength of the market approach is that it treats markets as social structures, thereby integrating insights from a variety of theoretical perspectives (i.e., economic, network, constructivist, demographic). Thus, the theory of the sex market has the potential of offering a comprehensive, robust explanation of sexual activity. Nevertheless, no one approach is sufficient in and of itself, and our approach has three limitations that stem from misfits between our empirical data and the predictions of more general market theories.

First, the sex-market metaphor appears to favor utilitarian thinking when, in fact, much of our research actually suggests the importance of nonexchange, value orientations. In a few cases (e.g., prostitution), sex acts are exchanged for money, but most sexual relationships are created on the basis of nonmonetary values. Sex may be exchanged for security or belonging, as is the case with, for example, homeless young men in Shoreland, who work the gay transactional market, oddly hoping to become HIV positive in order to find a group that they can consider family. On the other hand, sexual relationships may be formed to fulfill family obligations or to express love. None of these examples fit comfortably within a utilitarian framework, nor do sex markets work like the product markets for steel, groceries, or legal advice. However, we are persuaded that, for better or for worse, sexual expression is organized like a market and shares many of the same features of traditional matching markets (e.g., transaction costs, search behaviors, exchanges of one sort or another).

Second, unlike theorists working with economic markets, we do not conceptualize humans as atomistic individuals free to make exchange decisions that solely serve their economic self-interest, nor do we see individuals as wholly constrained by social and cultural structures. Rather, we see individuals' sexual choices as channeled by the social networks, organizations, cultures, and spaces within which they act. We advocate a bounded, highly contextualized notion of human agency that does not rest comfortably with economic approaches. While this may create problems with predictability and modeling, it may more closely resemble the empirical reality of how individuals search for and create sexual partnerships. Thus, our approach does not fully address the issue of motives for action. Unlike economic theories of sexual and marriage markets, which rest on the assumption that self-interest motivates decisions and actions, our theory can only suggest how possible sexual motivations are constructed and shaped by the nature of individuals' social embeddedness in group cultures, social and familial networks, and social space.

Finally, some sexual activity involves the use of force, a social fact that does not fit comfortably with the idea of autonomous, voluntary market participation. Indeed, forced sex and domestic violence, both appalling features of intimate relations, are common enough to suggest that the notion of freely negotiated sexual relationships is a strong assumption. While we offer no explicit theory of the role of force in markets, several chapters of the book address the role of violence and force in the dynamics of sexual relationships.

Outline of the Book

All the chapters in this volume use the data gathered by the CHSLS. This unifying fact of a shared database provides the opportunity to examine the interrelatedness of sexual expression and its regulation from different points of view. Thus, while each chapter can be read as a freestanding discussion, all the chapters were written with an eye toward mutually informing and enriching one another, thereby yielding a whole that is, we hope, greater than the sum of its parts.

Part One: Introduction

In chapter 2, the second chapter in this introductory part, Van Haitsma, Paik, and Laumann lay out the rationale and design of this endeavor. The CHSLS, the follow-up study to the 1992 NHSLS, was designed to better assess the local processes through which individuals meet their partners and organize their sexual relationships. The chapter provides readers with an overview of the study, including details about the design of the survey, the qualitative and quantitative components of the data, and descriptions of the neighborhood samples. Briefly, in addition to a metropolitan-area sampling design, data were collected on four distinctive (and pseudonymous) neighborhoods: Shoreland, on the city's North Side (an affluent, mostly white area with a concentration of men who have sex with men); Southtown, on the South Side (a black, lower- to middle-class area); Westside, on the West Side (a predominately Mexican American, lower- to middle-class area); and Erlinda, on the Northwest Side (a mixed-Hispanic area with a concentration of Puerto Ricans). The chapter also examines some of the distinctive features of sexual expression in the CHSLS data as well as the rationale for, and advantages of, studying sexuality in an urban setting.

Part Two: The Structure of Urban Sex Markets

In chapter 3, Mahay and Laumann examine the spatial organization of sex markets, conceptualizing the four neighborhoods in the CHSLS as socially bounded sex markets. Each market is distinguished by four organizing features: the character of its spatial location and attributes vis-Ç-vis other neighborhoods in the city; its mix of local institutions, including churches, health clinics, and the police; its locally operative cultural norms regarding sexual behaviors and beliefs; and the ramifying social ties in which residents are embedded. These four dimensions combine to produce distinctive neighborhood-based patterns of sexuality, including the prevalence of STIs, children, domestic violence, and partnership durability.

In chapter 4, Ellingson and Schroeder examine the social construction of same-sex markets for men and women in the four neighborhoods. They show how different combinations of sexual culture, institutional and social-network support (or the lack thereof), and social space create two types of same-sex markets: transactional and relational. The male same-sex markets for both whites and racial/ethnic minorities are predominantly transactional, but for different reasons. For white men, the sexual culture of the gay community and the availability of social space create a public market and encourage short-term sexual relationships, whereas, for Hispanic and African American men, the lack of public space for same-sex encounters, the culture of machismo, and embeddedness within tight kinship networks create a private market while encouraging short-term sexual relationships. Same-sex markets for women, regardless of racial/ethnic identity, tend to be relational. The sexual cultures of the female same-sex markets in the neighborhoods define monogamous, committed relationships as the ideal, and market space is constructed to facilitate the building of relationships and community rather than the finding of casual sex partners. The facts that, in the African American and Hispanic neighborhoods, lesbianism has little legitimacy, limited public space is devoted to same-sex partnering activities, and the residents are strongly embedded in family networks have led to the creation of a privatized sex market for African American women and forced Latinas out of their neighborhoods to search for potential partners.

Part Three: Sexual and Social Consequences of Sexual Marketplaces

In chapter 5, Mahay and Laumann examine how an individual's market position, or "value," in sex markets changes over the life course and how men and women adapt their sexual-partnering strategies in response. As the average age at marriage and the divorce rate both increase, greater numbers of men and women find themselves participating in sex markets at later stages of the life course. However, one's position in the sex market changes with age, and it changes for men and women differently. With age, women's market position becomes weaker, men's stronger. This is a result of several factors: unfavorable sex ratios for older women; cultural definitions of beauty; and the fact that women are more likely to be caretakers of their children. Mahay and Laumann show that many older single women have responded by changing their sexual-partnering strategies. They are more likely than are their younger counterparts to meet their sex partners at bars, clubs, and restaurants, go outside their existing social network to meet partners, and have sex outside a dating or more serious relationship. These data show that, although older single women have more traditional sexual attitudes and values, they have less traditional sexual-partnering strategies.

In chapter 6, Youm and Paik examine the link between sex markets and marriage markets, a link that helps explain why some groups are less likely to marry than are others. They first differentiate between marriage and sexual-matching markets and show how patterns of behavior in both markets in Chicago are related. Specifically, they investigate how the existence of sex-market opportunities outside a relationship reduces the likelihood of entering marriage. They show that the mutual trust needed for committing to marriage exists with few sex-market opportunities, high expectations of future marriage benefits, and strong embeddedness with mutual friends and acquaintances. They then examine whether these differences in sex-market conditions account for the racial differences in marriage rates.

In chapter 7, Paik, Laumann, and Van Haitsma investigate the social-psychological dynamics that result from participation in sex markets, focusing on the quality-of-life consequences of different types of sexual networks. Building on the insights of chapter 6, they first examine how concurrency and the kinds of commitments that people make to their sex partners produce sexual jealousy, which is conceptualized as a perceived breach of the commitment of sexual exclusivity. Next, they argue that sexual jealousy is the key social-psychological mechanism affecting relationship quality and examine how it conditions the dynamics between commitments and aspects of relationship quality, such as intimate-partner violence and relationship satisfaction. In general, they find that, when there is no jealousy, having extensive commitments tends to protect individuals from concurrency and sexual jealousy and to produce higher levels of relationship satisfaction and less violence. However, in the event that jealousy occurs, having extensive commitments has negative consequences, increasing the likelihood of intimate-partner violence and lowering relationship satisfaction. The broad implication of this research is that commitments confer risks as well as rewards.

In chapter 8, Buntin, Lechtman, and Laumann examine criminality in sexual interactions and address how intimate-partner violence and forced sex are interrelated phenomena yet, at the same time, involve different forms and mechanisms. Their discussion of violence between intimate partners begins with an analysis of the prevalence of violent acts toward an intimate partner, as reported differentially by men and women. They then look at patterns of intimate-partner violence among different social groups (racial/ethnic, same sex, neighborhood, etc.) and discuss explanations of patterns among genders and their implications. Finally, they examine patterns of help-seeking behavior: What percentage of those who have experienced intimate-partner violence seek help, and to whom do they typically turn? They then turn their attention to forced sex, beginning with the prevalence of forced sex among men and women and among different social groups. They examine the patterns and characteristics of a forced-sex event and the meaning of forced sex and its implications for sexuality. Specifically, what percentage of those who said that they experienced forced sex defined it as rape or a crime? How many sought help after the experience? And how does the event affect the victim's life in terms of overall well-being and intimacy with others? Finally, they examine these two types of violations of sexuality and intimacy in terms of the sex market. How do they affect sexual partnering and behavior in the sex market?

In chapter 9, Youm and Laumann examine how the organization of social networks affects the transmission of STDs. They provide empirical evidence that social networks can lower STD rates as a result of "third-party embeddedness," which can provide critical information about sex partners or can exert social control over the person's partner choice and sexual activities, thereby reducing or enhancing the risk of STD transmission.

Part Four: Institutional Responses and Silences

In chapter 10, Ellingson examines how organizations within the institutional spheres of health care, social service, and law enforcement attempt to control sexuality and ameliorate sex-related health problems. Relying on in-depth interviews with service providers in the four neighborhoods, he analyzes the causal stories that institutional actors construct and deploy as they attempt to understand how and why clients are at risk and to justify their own interventions. He found that the five causal stories used by providers stress the complex cultural and structural features of each neighborhood's population that go beyond the expected institutionally driven interpretive models. However, the intervention strategies rely more heavily on institutionally based understandings of sexual problems and solutions. He argues, contra Foucault and Bourdieu, that institutional control of sexual norms, relationships, and activities is limited and not terribly strong because the causal stories draw contradictory moral boundaries and rely on contradictory understandings of moral agency. As a result, the discourses that we expect to strengthen social control undercut institutional efforts to change unhealthy or risky sexuality.

In chapter 11, Ellingson, Van Haitsma, Laumann, and Tebbe observe that questions about sexuality are at the very center of recent intradenominational conflicts within American Christianity. At the level of the congregation, clergy must contend, not only with the policies and doctrines handed down by regional and national bodies, but also with the pressures of the local religious market, the local institutional context, and the culture and the needs of the local population. Drawing on case studies from three of the neighborhoods (Shoreland, Southtown, and Westside), they illustrate the ways in which congregations' policies and practices in matters related to human sexuality are not simple translations of denominational traditions and doctrine but, rather, the outcomes of complex negotiations by congregations' leaders faced with organizational, demographic, and institutional constraints and resources. They argue that these constraints and resources lead clergy to construct normative frameworks that provide them with the interpretive lenses and action scripts with which to address specific sexuality issues facing their congregations and communities.

In chapter 12, Ellingson, Mahay, Paik, and Laumann provide a summary description of the sexual world that we have uncovered. This world does not look like Foucault's world of strong institutional control over sexual identities and behaviors. Chicago's institutions simply do not exercise extensive or authoritative power over sexuality; instead, their control is partial, driven by restrictive institutional logics and institutions' reluctance to take ownership or become stakeholders. Thus, institutional solutions to sex-market problems are incomplete and ineffective. A culture of individual choice has come to permeate all social life. One of the consequences of the institutional disembeddedness of sexuality is that it gives rise to a kind of moral heterogeneity: there is no overarching moral framework to guide sex-market activity. Each institution offers its own definitions of good/safe sex, identities, and relationships, definitions that exist alongside specific cultural norms/scripts about sexuality, thereby creating a smorgasbord of sexual norms from which individuals in the market select. And there is no dominant institution providing the means to adjudicate between competing normative frameworks. To be sure, individuals' sexual choices are constrained and channeled, but, in particular, by local forces—familial and friendship networks, local cultural scripts, and locally organized social and physical spaces. The dominant American myth about sexuality has been decoupled from actual behavior. The story about how boy meets girl and they fall in love, get married, have children, and then atrophy sexually with age is by no means the only story that we see in our data. There are many different sexual life histories and partnering sequences and, perhaps, the emergent new story of long periods of singleness, the commonplace nature of cohabitation, and the ways in which the myth cannot function for some populations, such as the African American.

Copyright notice: Excerpted from pages 1-xxxx of The Sexual Organization of the City edited by Edward O. Laumann, Stephen Ellingson, Jenna Mahay, Anthony Paik, and Yoosik Youm, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2004 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press and of the author.

Edward O. Laumann, Stephen Ellingson, Jenna Mahay, Anthony Paik, and Yoosik Youm, editors
The Sexual Organization of the City
©2004, 424 pages, 1 map, 21 figures, 39 tables
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 0-226-47031-8
Paper $23.00 ISBN: 0-226-46897-6

For information on purchasing the book—from bookstores or here online—please go to the webpage for The Sexual Organization of the City.

See also: