Insights 2012: Orgasmology with Professor Annamarie Jagose
1 November 2012
"The invitation to be an orgasmologist…is a light-hearted one," explains Professor Jagose, "but it invites people to be open to the idea that, however worldly we are, orgasm might still have things to teach us."
"The idea of thinking about orgasm in the context of humanities scholarship is surprising to some. I am often asked if I am a scientist or a medical doctor as if those fields had more logical claims to make on the scholarly subject of orgasm."
Professor Jagose has become used to the suspicion that studying orgasms can generate, especially since her New Zealand government-funded research grant caused an outright media frenzy, a response she says she was not overly startled by.
"My work in sexuality studies has previously attracted negative tabloid attention, but I was surprised at the length of time the story was sustained in the national media."
Despite past negative reactions, Jagose maintains that orgasm is worth taking seriously, and that the humanities is the perfect lens through which to uncover fresh perspectives on sex, sexual orientation and sexual histories.
As part of her lecture, Professor Jagose will describe some of the challenges to studying a phenomenon that is fleeting and ephemeral, look at some of the conflicting ways in which orgasm is represented - physical but deeply psychological, natural but also cultural, trivial but precious - and discuss some of the curious perspectives of sex throughout history, such as marital advice in the early twentieth century.
"For those more accustomed to the how-to address of post-60s sex advice literatures, it can be surprising to see that the very detailed descriptions of simultaneous orgasm in the married couple are not accompanied by any instructions as how to achieve this event," she says.
This is an example of how public perceptions of what Andy Warhol prefers to call "organza" have changed significantly over time.
"We do not have to go back very far in terms of historical time to get to cultural contexts in which there was little discernible general public perception of orgasm."
Professor Annamarie Jagose joined the University of Sydney in 2011, having previously held positions at a variety of universities, including as International Scholar at the Centre for Research on Gender and Sexuality at New York University. She has published a number of non-fiction works, of which Queer Theory: An Introduction (1997) has been republished widely, and her novels include Slow Water (2007) and In Translation (2004). Her forthcoming book Orgasmology will be available through Duke University Press in January 2013.
Registrations for this event have closed. This is the last Insights lecture this year - see the 2013 program.
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