By: Sebastian Greenholtz

Love and sex dissected


Sexual Fields: Towards a Sociology of Collective Sexual Life

Associate Professor of Sociology Adam Green studies how social relations are organized within sex-focused locations, called sexual fields. Green finds that people with similar erotic desires project these tastes onto a social space, called structures of desire. Structures of desire have different settings and relationships negotiated within.

Green contrasts two Toronto gay bars, the leather bar “Black Eagle” and the more upscale bar “Lub Lounge,” in which the patrons have different norms of behavior, dress codes, ages, classes, and races. At Black Eagle older working-class men wear leather and approach one another on terms of sexual desire, while at Lub Lounge younger, whiter, upper class men wear trendy clothing, sip expensive drinks, and dance to up-beat music.

These different attributes are what Green calls sexual capital, and while one may have considerable capital in one structure of desire, he may be lacking in the other. As Green says on his website, “These status differentials become particularly consequential when characteristics such as race, class, age and ethnicity systematically stratify the dispersion of sexual capital between groups of sexual actors, affording differential degrees of power and social significance in the course of interaction. As a consequence, field position may be related to gay community attachment, the formation of friendship networks, self-esteem, perceptions of equity and justice, and sexual decision-making practices.”

The Case for Falling in Love: Why We Can’t Master the Madness of Love — and Why That’s the Best Part

This book on love, written by Professor Mari Ruti of the Department of English and Drama at the University of Toronto Mississauga, argues that the way formal gender roles are interpreted in popular culture, especially self-help books on love, do not reflect the complexity and nuance of romantic relationships. As Ruti told U of T News, “Book after book tells us that men are these cave men who are wired to hunt women. … The young women I teach don’t think of men in these terms and the young men I teach don’t think of women as prey to be conquered. There’s a lot more fluidity and there’s a lot more mutual respect than these authors are suggesting.”

Ruti suggests instead that people should experience love as it happens, and to learn from it. Roti says, “I’m saying that most times when love fails it’s not because you’ve done something wrong. It’s because love is inherently fickle and capricious. … Often it’s the failed affairs that teach us the most, so thinking about love’s failures as life failures is not productive because a lot of time it’s the failure that teaches us something really important.”

Ruti continues to de-simplify love in her newest book, The Summons of Love. The book complements the message of The Case for Falling in Love by digging deeper into the transformative mission of love and the unique emotions accessed by falling in it.

Sexual Representation Collection

To augment the research being done on sex and sexuality at U of T, University’s College’s Sexual Representation Collection presents commercially-produced materials depicting different representations of sexuality and censorship of sexual expression. The collection’s curator, Nicholas Matte, lecturer for the Sexual Diversity Studies Program and History PhD candidate, told the newspaper, “The Sexual Representation Collection aims to provide researchers with material that will help them deepen how people understand of the many aspects of life to which sexual representations relate.”

Two qualities set this collection apart. First, the transnational nature of material mostly donated by people connected to, if not from, Toronto. Matte explained, “A given film may have been produced in California, distributed in Quebec, and banned in Ontario.”

Second, the collection provides a mix of queer and straight material. Their self-given mandate is to gather materials unlikely to be in other archives, which means not limiting to any sexual orientation. Matte said, “We have everything from a major run of Playboy magazines, to a great deal of kink and fetish materials. … Our collection is not divided into “straight” and “queer,” but rather documents a great deal of complexity.”

Run by volunteers and open to researchers through special request, the Sexual Representation Collection is a key resource to anyone studying the many ways in which people love and defend love.

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