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Sexual Fields

Toward a Sociology of Collective Sexual Life

Sexual Fields

Toward a Sociology of Collective Sexual Life

In the late modern period, an unprecedented expansion of specialized erotic worlds has transformed the domain of intimate life. Organized by appetites and dispositions related to race, ethnicity, class, gender, and age, these erotic worlds are arenas of sexual exploration but, also, sites of stratification and dominion wherein actors vie for partners, social significance, and esteem. These are what Adam Isaiah Green calls sexual fields, which represent a semblance of social life for which he offers a groundbreaking new framework.

To build on the sexual fields framework, Green has gathered a distinguished group of scholars who together make a strong case for sexual field theory as the first systematic theoretical innovation since queer theory in the sociology of sexuality. Expanding on the work of Bourdieu, Green and contributors develop this distinctively sociological approach for analyzing collective sexual life, where much of the sexual life of our society resides today. Coupling field theory with the ethnographic and theoretical expertise of some of the most important scholars of sexual life at work today, Sexual Fields offers a game-changing approach that will revolutionize how sociologists analyze and make sense of contemporary sexual life for years to come.

240 pages | 3 line drawings, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2013

Gay and Lesbian Studies

Gender and Sexuality

Sociology: General Sociology

Women's Studies


“In Adam Isaiah Green’s introductory chapter, he lays out the evolution of his sexual fields formulation. This alone is worth the price of the book. But this volume also includes seven chapters written by real movers and shakers in the field of sexuality, each making interesting, substantive contributions and significant theoretical moves to the sexual fields formulation. Sexual Fields is certainly a book that every scholar of sexuality should own, and I would not be surprised if this were to become one of the most cited volumes in the field of sexuality.”

Verta Taylor | coauthor of Drag Queens at the 801 Cabaret

 “Sexual Fields is a lucid analysis of the rules of attraction in our late modern age. It shows that middle-aged internet daters, denizens of gay male leather bars, and white female ex-pats in Asia have more in common than they might imagine: they’re all competing to maximize erotic status, though in site-specific ways. A bold, provocative reinterpretation.”

Arlene Stein, Rutgers University

“Adam Isaiah Green and his colleagues slice along the edge of sexualities studies, reworking our understanding of how and why erotic worlds are organized as they are and how desires and identities interact with social structures. Empirically lively and intellectually challenging, Sexual Fields offers an important advance in theorizing sexualities.”

Joshua Gamson, University of San Francisco

“Sexual Fields is an important contribution to the social scientific study of sexuality.  This edited collection of papers presents and elaborates several aspects of field theory as it applies to sexual interactions.  There is a good balance of more theoretical and more empirical contributions, the latter illustrating some of the power of the concepts in the former.  An important contribution of field theory is that it enables us to analyze the local and structured nature of ‘the situation’ simultaneously.   As several authors point out, this makes the theory useful much more broadly in social psychology and sociology.   In three of the chapters, Adam Isaiah Green explores in greater breadth and depth the ideas put forward in his recent articles; this alone is worth the price of the book.”

John DeLamater, University of Wisconsin

“Sexual Fields makes an important contribution to the sociological study of sexuality. The collection offers a nice mix of theoretical and empirical pieces, providing the reader with powerful theoretical tools and evidence of the payoff of applying these tools to specific cases. The cases are diverse and riveting, exploring topics ranging from the eroticization of transwomen in a San Francisco bar catering to transwomen and their admirers, to the erotic marginalization of Western women in Shanghai.”

Elizabeth A. Armstrong, author of Forging Gay Identities: Organizing Sexuality in San Francisco, 1950-1994

Sexual Fields provides an innovative and productive way of thinking about how sexual attitudes, desires, attractions, practices, and worlds are constructed—one which could potentially prove useful beyond the discipline of sociology. In politics, for example, it could certainly facilitate the theorization of the intersection of political and sexual communities and movements. Students and researchers working on sexuality, gender, or queer studies should find something of interest in this book.”

LSE Review of Books

Table of Contents

Foreword by Omar Lizardo   Preface by Verta Taylor   Acknowledgments
Introduction    Toward a Sociology of Collective Sexual Life
Adam Isaiah Green
Chapter 1.    The Sexual Fields Framework
Adam Isaiah Green
Chapter 2.    Sexual Field, Erotic Habitus, and Embodiment at a Transgender Bar
Martin S. Weinberg and Colin J. Williams
Chapter 3.    Sexual Field Theory: Some Theoretical Questions and Empirical Complications
Peter Hennen
Chapter 4.    Rejecting the Specifically Sexual: Locating the Sexual Field in the Work of Pierre Bourdieu
Matt George
Chapter 5.    Circuits and the Social Organization of Sexual Fields
Barry D. Adam and Adam Isaiah Green
Chapter 6.    Sexless in Shanghai: Gendered Mobility Strategies in a Transnational Sexual Field
James Farrer and Sonja Dale
Chapter 7.    The Crucial Place of Sexual Judgment for Field Theoretic Inquiries
John Levi Martin

References     Index

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