In Diagnosing Desire: Biopolitics and Femininity into the Twenty-First Century (The Ohio State University Press, 2020), Alyson K. Spurgas, Ph.D. 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 techno-scientific 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 neo-liberalize 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.
Michael O. Johnston, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University. His most recent study, “The Queen and Her Royal Court: A Content Analysis of Doing Gender at a Tulip Queen Pageant”, was published in Gender Issues Journal. His interests include the sociology of art and culture, sociology of death and dying, and sociology of sex and gender. More can be found about Michael O. Johnston, Ph.D. by going to his website, Google Scholar, following him on Twitter @ProfessorJohnst, or emailing him at johnstonmo at wmpenn dot edu.
Michael O. Johnston, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University.