A Brief Foreword

This extensive chapter on sexuality in the United States is unique in this multivolume International Encyclopedia of Sexuality for three reasons: (1) the vast amount of research information and data available on American sexuality, (2) the ethnic and religious complexity of the population, and (3) the number of sexologists involved in its preparation. Twenty-three specialists joined me and the chapter coeditors, Drs. Patricia Barthalow Koch and David L. Weis, in writing individual sections. An additional fifteen specialists advised individual writers on topics within their expertise.

Because the editors were very much aware of and sensitive to the diversity of our contributors and their varied and rich perspectives, we felt it was important to let each contributor speak for her or himself. In respecting this freedom and diversity, we feel a strong responsibility to comment on the consequences of this decision for the reader.

The reader should not expect to find in this chapter a single, consistent, and coherent picture of sexual attitudes and behaviors in the United States. In some sections, the reader will encounter an insider's or emic view of a particular aspect, e.g., Ariadne Kane offers an insider's view of cross-gender issues, and Mitchell Tepper writes about sexuality and people with physical and developmental disabilities from both his personal experience and professional perspective. Most of the other contributors write from an etic view as outside researchers or observers. To appreciate critically these various views, the reader should consider the perspective of the individual writer. Among the contributors to this chapter, the reader will encounter researchers, therapists, counselors, and educators. Each researcher, therapist, counselor, or educator will be more or less strongly influenced by her or his professional background and training as a psychologist, sociologist, biologist, health-care professional, behavioral biologist, nonverbal behaviorist, social, clinical, or evolutionary psychologist, cultural or evolutionary sociologist, anthropologist, health educator, gender specialist, or activist/advocate.

The reader will encounter research theories and statistics throughout the chapter. These data may represent the results of studies conducted by researchers who might have been constrained by popular interests, political restrictions, or the biases of funding agencies to devote their time and energy to, perhaps, interesting and useful, but trendy research. Thus, they may have had to devote their expertise to more limited, and perhaps chic or politically safe research.

The chapter presented here represents a mosaic that is not always coherent - nor could it be, given the diversity of American sexologists, the funding and support for sexology, and the ever-changing complex of American sexual attitudes, biases, and values. This chapter does, however, present a solid picture of what American sexologists do when they summarize the research and data available on topics in their own domain of interest and specialization.