Sexual Dissidence in American Culture

213 pages

14 illustrations

July, 2006

ISBN: 9780814740286



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Arlene Stein is associate professor of sociology and women's studies at Rutgers University. She is the author of The Stranger Next Door: The Story of a Small Community's Battle Over Sex, Faith, and Civil Rights, winner of the Ruth Benedict Prize from the American Anthropological Association, an Honor Award from the American Library Association and a Gustavus Meyer Human Rights Book Award, Honorable Mention.

All books by Arlene Stein

Shame, a powerful emotion, leads individuals to feel vulnerable, victimized, rejected. In Shameless, noted scholar and writer Arlene Stein explores American culture's attitudes toward shame and sexuality.

Some say that we live in a world without shame. But American culture is a curious mix of the shameless and the shamers, a seemingly endless parade of Pamela Andersons and Jerry Falwells strutting their stuff and wagging their fingers. With thoughtful analysis and wit, Shameless analyzes these clashing visions of sexual morality.

While conservatives have brought back sexual shame—by pushing for abstinence-only sex education, limitations on abortion, and prohibitions of gay/lesbian civil rights—progressives hold out for sexual liberalization and a society beyond “the closet.” As these two Americas compete with one another, the future of family life, the right to privacy, and the very meaning of morality hang in the balance.


  • “In welcome contrast to many works in cultural studies, which sometimes collapse under the weight of their theoretical posturing, Shameless is simultaneously rooted in perceptive fieldwork, driven by big ideas, and remarkably free of jargon. The combination of big ideas, methodological sophistication, and history means that undergraduate readers will likely benefit from careful discussion. Nonetheless, the accessibility of Stein’s prose and her timely topic will engage a very wide variety of readers.”

    —Lisa D. Brush, University of Pittsburgh

  • “ Stein elegantly ties together this contentious and complicated history by examining it through the analytical lens of shame. . . . This is an important contribution, since much literature on sexuality from a social constructionist standpoint has sidestepped an analysis of emotions.”

    SIGNS: Journal of Women in Culture and Society

  • “A sophisticated and subtle collection of essays. . . . Stein’s innovative volume stands out. . . . Stein’s book is notable for combining a commitment to qualitative social science methods with an appropriate grasp of its limitations. She is unusually clear-eyed about the shifting politics of knowledge . . . and reminds us that both sides in the culture wars depend on those we entrust to produce knowledge”

    Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide

  • 𔄬Shameless is simultaneously rooted in perceptive fieldwork, driven by big ideas, and remarkably free of jargon. . . . Shamelee should inform and stimulate a broad audience.”

    Sex Roles

  • “Arlene Stein has established herself as one of the premier sociologists of sexuality writing today. Skillfully combining historical, sociological, and cultural approaches, this book offers powerful accounts of sexuality in America.”

    —Steven Seidman, author of Beyond the Closet: The Transformation of Gay and Lesbian Life