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Diagnosing Desire: Biopolitics and Femininity into the Twenty-First Century (Abnormativities: Queer/Gender/Embodiment) (Hardcover)

Diagnosing Desire: Biopolitics and Femininity into the Twenty-First Century (Abnormativities: Queer/Gender/Embodiment) Cover Image
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Winner of the 2021 Cultural Studies Association First Book Prize

In Diagnosing Desire: Biopolitics and Femininity into the Twenty-First Century, Alyson K. Spurgas examines the “new science of female sexuality” from a critical, sociological perspective, considering how today’s feminist-identified sex researchers study and manage women with low desire. Diagnosing Desire investigates experimental sex research that measures the disconnect between subjective and genital female arousal, contemporary psychiatric diagnoses for low female desire, new models for understanding women’s sexual response, and cutting-edge treatments for low desire in women—including from the realms of mindfulness and alternative healing.
Spurgas makes the case that, together, all of these technologies create a “feminized responsive desire framework” for understanding women’s sexuality, and that this, in fact, produces women’s sexuality as a complex problem to be solved. The biggest problem, Spurgas argues, is that gendered and sexualized trauma—including as it is produced within technoscientific medicine itself—is too often ignored in contemporary renderings. Through incisive textual analysis and in-depth qualitative research based on interviews with women with low desire, Spurgas argues for a more radical and communal form of care for feminized—and traumatized—populations, in opposition to biopolitical mandates to individualize and neoliberalize forms of self-care. Ultimately, this is a book not just about a specific diagnosis or dysfunction but about the material-discursive regimes that produce and regulate femininity.


About the Author

Alyson K. Spurgas is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Praise For…

“[As a] a timely and critical contribution to social studies of sexology and trauma, and to feminist science and technology studies more broadly, Diagnosing Desire demonstrates how feminist scholars across the disciplinary spectrum can engage in radically empathetic work in an approachable and appealing way.” —Sophie Webb, Lateral: Journal of the Cultural Studies Association

Diagnosing Desire is a compelling feminist engagement with the science of sexuality. Nothing is spared in this powerful critique—from plethysmographs to mindfulness therapies, Spurgas identifies the governance technologies that render women’s sexuality unfathomable and that modulate their desires within a framework of receptivity. This book makes substantial and vital contributions to discussions of (feminized) trauma; power, gender, and sexuality; consent and coercion; and gendered labor and carework.” —Christine Labuski, author of It Hurts Down There: The Bodily Imaginaries of Female Genital Pain

Diagnosing Desire is a very provocative, critical, and strongly argued book, which goes beyond a discussion of women’s sexual disorders to explore the anthropological, historical, and ontological dimensions of desire and gender.” —Alain Giami, editor of Sexual Revolutions
Product Details
ISBN: 9780814214510
ISBN-10: 0814214517
Publisher: Ohio State University Press
Publication Date: October 23rd, 2020
Pages: 290
Language: English
Series: Abnormativities: Queer/Gender/Embodiment