Sex(ualities) and Symbolic Interaction

Document Type


Publication Date



In everyday life, people negotiate complex terrain—and that is radically true of sexual experience. We potentially come to terms with sexuality most anywhere and at any given moment. We confront sexualities in bedrooms that, as Davis (1983:23) aptly observes, are “the only major room in the house named after a piece of furniture instead of its central activity, probably because what takes place there (besides sleeping) has been unmentionable.” We confront sexualities in doctors' offices, which are carefully and dramaturgically fashioned to eliminate or neutralize sexual interactions, meanings, and emotions (Smith and Kleinman 1989)—that is certainly the case for the pelvic exam (Henslin and Biggs 1971), and, although we are unaware of any empirical studies, we safely assume that most men do not conclude their prostate exams by asking the doctor, “Was it good for you?” We confront sexualities in our e-mail, even when we don't want it. Alongside the spam from rich dead Nigerians who are suspiciously eager to give away their money are the equally common (and equally puffed) enticements to purchase various products that promise to enrich our sexual experiences—often penis enlargement products. Someone might be trying to tell us something, but the “meat” of this phenomenon has yet to be analyzed, and we are sure it has little to do with inches on a ruler. Likewise, we confront sexualities in lingerie stores, the music we listen to, the movies and television we watch, the books and magazines we read, and, among a plethora of other contexts, we confront sexualities in this issue of Symbolic Interaction.


Sociology and Corrections

Publication Title

Symbolic Interaction