A lot of fellow academics think I have a nice time of it given I spend so much of my research exploring issues of public sex, barebacking and porn. Oh yes, it’s a string of rampant antics and masturbatory machinations. Well, no it’s not. Not quite. When I therefore read of scientists who spend their time attaching penises to electrodes (or electrodes to penises – I find myself pondering this sentence structure) and watching men orgasm all day, I know that it might sound more fun than it is.
Anyway, I found myself thinking of these fellow academics upon reading Mark Simpson’s latest blog post in which he highlights what he calls ‘those kinky penile plethysmograph fetishists at Northwestern University [who] just can’t get enough cock.’
This latest study reveals (shock, horror) that bisexual men do exist. Interestingly, Simpson doesn’t welcome the report and is critical of the impact these findings will have on bisexual identity (read his post in full here).
Simpson disciple (or Simpsonista), Quiet Riot Girl (and regular commenter on this blog) supports Simpson’s claims, noting that his own comments are rooted in experience rather than the ‘removed’ objectivity of science. I’ve spoken at a number of conferences and written on what I regard as a failure of modern day academia in addressing the personal. For reasons of complex ethics and established methodological norms, we can not (usually) merely talk about our own experiences even though we quietly acknowledge that they are crucial. In contrast to the ‘say it all’ scholarship of the 1960s and 1970s, social science research has become impersonal.
Nonetheless, this is starting to change. Tim Dean’s Unlimited Intimacy is a remarkable mould breaker. Similarly, I was recently on the awards committee that bestowed the 2011 Hart-SLSA book prize to Rosie Harding’s Regulating Sexuality – a book that includes a moving and powerful personal conclusion. If social science is having these difficulties, it is perhaps unsurprising that traditional science operates in a separate silo. A silo in which things can only be precisely measured, prodded and reduced to quantifiable data. Social scientists have traditionally stood as a counter-wight to this, and if anything, the comments of Simpson and QRG are a reminder that we need to re-discover the personal in our own writing.