La promo du moment
"Sex in America," the plenary lecture delivered by Stuart Michaels, held in its title the promise of an immediate answer to the 1995 Congress of the A. F.E. A. (Association Française d'Études Américaines): "Sexualités aux États Unis: Expression et répression." A sociologist at the University of Chicago, Michaels participated in a survey of sexual behavior in 1988 later published as The Social Organization of Sexuality and Sex in America in 1994. The study received intense media attention and made the cover of Time magazine on October 17, 1994, with the subtitle "the most important survey since the Kinsey Report". But Michaels tried instead to draw attention to its checkered political history and to the discrepancy between the media coverage and the methods and findings of the research. The survey originated during the Reagan administration in response to the AIDS epidemic and became in 1989 the target of right wing politicians, such as Jesse Helms. The results of the study, which, among other things, revealed a lower percentage of homosexual behavior than expected, were perceived as good news by the general media which promptly read the findings as a celebration of heterosexual marriage. To Michaels, these results show puzzling discrepancies between men's and women's reports of their experience of sexuality and reveal a disturbing chasm between social science research and the work done in Gender, Gay and Lesbian Studies. His acknowledgment is that large surveys, such as this, automatically reflect the middle, the average, the masses, and that self-report does not necessarily coincide with sexual behavior. A strong opening statement on the politics of sexuality, his contribution straddles the two interrelated issues of this volume: theoretical questioning and institutional responses. It also demonstrates a deep concern for a responsible health policy to fight the AIDS epidemic.