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Summary of Theory Symposium, May 14-17, 1998

The purpose of The Kinsey Institute's international symposium, The Role of Theory in Sex Research, held at Indiana University, was to encourage useful discourse between researchers from different epistemological backgrounds and to facilitate future interdisciplinary research. It was organized around issues of social importance and the potential relevance of research in those areas to public policy. In most sessions, presenters from two different theoretical approaches described how they would conduct research relevant to the topic, and a discussant compared and contrasted those approaches and comments on the extent to which they could complement one another.

The planning of this program was aided by the following advisors: Diane DiMauro, Anke Ehrhardt, John Gagnon, Gilbert Herdt, and Richard Parker. Funding for the program was provided by a grant to The Kinsey Institute from the Ford Foundation.

Scroll down to see a description of the program and a list of participants.

Introduction and Background

Research in human sexuality is currently grappling with issues of major importance to the human race. The field of sex research, however, is fragmented, partly by disciplines and partly by contrasting epistemological approaches. Typically, we see research by the medical and psychological sciences which is relatively atheoretical in approach and guided principally by the application of "scientific method," (in particular, the testing of ostensibly refutable hypotheses). Increasingly, in the social sciences we see research from a different epistemological background, using methods of enquiry (e.g., qualitative research) which are not easily combined or integrated into those of the conventional medical/psychological school. Furthermore, these differences also result in difficulty in meaningful communication across approaches.

Yet the field urgently needs interdisciplinary research which crosses this epistemological gap. At its simplest, any comprehensive understanding of human sexuality requires both biological and cultural determinants to be taken into account, even if the relative importance of each may vary from issue to issue.

The object of this conference/workshop is to seek useful discourse between researchers from different epistemological backgrounds in order to facilitate interdisciplinary research in the future.

There is an underlying assumption in the planning of this conference that the human sexual condition, like most aspects of the human condition, is too complex to be grasped in reality by the human intellect, and that the best we can do is to develop models which are simplified versions of the reality. By virtue of this simplification, the models are comprehensible. Their worth, on the other hand, will depend on their value in helping to formulate strategies for tackling important problems. Hence, part of this value will be reflected in their usefulness in influencing policy makers. Relevance to policy will therefore be a key issue. Where differences will undoubtedly remain will be in the criteria used for judging the value of the model. Such differences, defined in that way, are probably more resolvable than the basic differences in formulating the models in the first place. The challenge of this workshop will be to discuss these alternative approaches, not to see which produce the best models, but to see how they might usefully work together in producing even better models.

Session Topics

  • Philosophy of Science: This session addressed epistemological changes that have occurred in the last two decades and how they might impinge on the theorizing of human sexuality
  • Adolescent Sexuality: This session centered around how theory might help policymakers in the areas of early onset of sexual activity, unwanted teenage pregnancy, and high rates of sexually transmitted disease among teens.
  • Sexual Orientation: This discussion focused on the development of sexual orientation or preference through the life cycle.
  • Sexuality Across the Life Cycle: This session addressed gender and heterosexuality.
  • Individual Differences in Sexual Risk Taking: Discussion centered around why individuals vary considerably in their propensity for taking sexual risks.
  • Closing Session: Two speakers summarized their impressions of what emerged during the meeting in relation to culture and policy.

Theory Conference Participants

Tomas Almaguer
Department of Sociology
University of Michigan
3012 LS&A Building
Ann Arbor, MI  48109
phone:	(313) 764-7501/6324
fax:	(313) 747-0636

John Bancroft
The Kinsey Institute
Indiana University
Morrison Hall third floor
Bloomington, IN  47405
phone:	(812) 855-7686
fax:	(812) 855-8277

Jose Barzelatto
Center for Health & Social Policy
2586 Sykes Creek Drive
Merritt Island, FL  32953
phone:	(h) (914) 738-7890; w (407) 459-3643
fax:	(407) 452-4651

Daryl Bem
Department of Psychology
Cornell University
230 Uris Hall
Ithaca, NY  14853
phone:	(607) 255-6352
fax:	(607) 255-8433

Caroline H. Bledsoe
Department of Anthropology
Northwestern University
1810 Hinman, room 101 203
Evanston, IL  60208
phone:	(847) 491-4825
fax:	(847) 467-1778

Claire D. Brindis
Center for Reproductive Health Policy
Inst for Health Policy Studies
Box 0936, UCSF
San Francisco, CA  94143
phone:	(415) 476-5255/5254
fax:	(415) 476-0705

Alex Carballo-Dieguez
HIV Ctr. Clinical & Behavioral Studies 
722 West 168th  Street #10
New York, NY  10032
phone:	(212) 960-2261
fax:	(212) 740-1774

Rafael M. Diaz
Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) 
University of California - San Francisco
74 New Montgomery, Suite 600
San Francisco, CA  94105
phone:	(415) 597-9100
fax:	(415) 597-9213

Diane Di Mauro
Sexuality Research Fellowship Program
810 Seventh Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, NY  10019
phone:	(212) 377-2700
fax:	(212) 377-2727

Gary Dowsett
Centre for Study of STDs
La Trobe University
Locked Bag 12
Carlton South Vic 3053, Australia
phone:	61 3 9285 5382
fax:	61 3 9285 5220

Anke Ehrhardt
HIV Center for Clinical & Behavioral Studies 
Columbia University
722 West 168th Street
New York, NY  10032
phone:	(212) 543-5971
fax:	(212) 543-5966

J. Dennis Fortenberry
Adolescent Medicine
Department of Pediatrics, IUPUI
RI 1740 N
Indianapolis, IN  46202
phone:	(317) 274-8812
fax:	(317) 274-0133

John Gagnon
40 East 19th Street
New York, NY  10003
phone:	(516) 632-7734
	(212) 353-1554
fax:	(212) 228-0576

Meg Gerrard
P.O. Box 593
Rancho Santa Fe, CA  92067
phone:	(619) 759-7973
fax:	(619) 759-7918

Cynthia Graham
Department of Psychology
Indiana University
Psychology 158
Bloomington, IN  47405
phone:	(812) 855-9782

Gilbert Herdt
Robt Penn Warren Ctr for Humanities
Vanderbilt University
Box 1534 Station B
Nashville, TN  37235
phone:	(615) 343-6241
fax:	(615) 343-2248
email:	gilbert.h.herdt@Vanderbilt.ed

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Davis
Davis, CA  95616-8522
phone:	(916) 753-1798 (h) (916) 661-3746
fax:	(916) 753-1799 (h) (916) 661-3633

Erick Janssen
The Kinsey Institute
Indiana University
Morrison Hall third floor
Bloomington, IN  47405
phone:	(812) 855-5086
fax:	(812) 855-8277

Edward O. Laumann
Department of Sociology
The University of Chicago
5848 S. University Avenue
Chicago, IL  60637
phone:	(773) 702-8691
fax:	(773) 702-4607

Shirley Lindenbaum
Ph.D. Program in Anthropology
CUNY Graduate Center
33 W. 42nd Street
New York, NY  10036-8099
phone:	(212) 642-2280/2278; 874-5863
fax:	(212) 642-2348

Heino F.L. Meyer-Bahlburg
Dev. Psychoendocrinology & HIV Center
Columbia University
NYSPI Box 10, 722 W. 168th Street
New York, NY  10032
phone:	(212) 543-5299
fax:	(212) 543-5966

Robert T. Michael
Harris School of Public Policy Studies
University of Chicago
1155 E. 60th Street
Chicago, IL  60637
phone:	(773) 702-9623
fax:	(773) 702-0926

Constance Nathanson
Johns Hopkins University
Sch of Hygiene, Population Dynamics Dept
Hygiene Room 4513
Baltimore, MD  21205
phone:	(410) 955-7805
fax:	(410) 955-0792

Lucia O'Sullivan
HIV Cntr Clinical & Behavioral Studies
722 W. 168th St #10
New York, NY  10032
phone:	(212) 928-6111 
fax:	(212) 928-6161

Richard Parker
HIV Ctr for Clinical & Behavioral Studies 
Columbia University
722 West 168th Street
New York, NY  10032
phone:	(212) 543-5829

Jay Paul
Prevention Sciences Group
University of California, San Francisco
74 New Montgomery  St., Suite 502
San Francisco, CA  94105
phone:	(415) 597-9860
fax:	(415) 597-9213

Kenneth Plummer
Department of Sociology
University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, CO4 3SQ, U.K.
fax:	44 1206 873 410

Chris Portelli
Director of Information
130 W. 42nd Street, Suite 350
New York, NY  10036
phone:	(212) 819-9770 x 319
fax:	(212) 819-9776

Joseph Lee Rodgers
Department of Psychology
The University of Oklahoma
Norman, OK  73019
phone:	(405) 325-4591
fax:	(405) 325-4737

Stephanie Sanders
The Kinsey Institute
Indiana University
Morrison Hall third floor
Bloomington, IN   47405
phone:	(812) 855-3065
fax:	(812) 855-8277

Theo Sandford
Dept of Gay and Lesbian Studies
Utrecht University
PO Box 80140
3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands
phone:	31 30 253-1488
fax:	31 30 253-1619

Leonore Tiefer
163 Third Avenue #183
New York, NY  10003
phone:	(212) 533-2774
fax:	(212) 254-5922

Anthony Walsh
Criminal Justice Department
Boise State University
Boise, ID  83725-0399
phone:	(208) 385-3240
fax:	(208) 385-4371

Martin Weinberg
Department of Sociology
Indiana University
Ballantine Hall 766
Bloomington, IN  47405
phone:	(812) 855-7208
fax:	(812) 855-0781

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