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Sex and Politics: A Critical Analysis of Science and Itвђ™s Influences

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Essay title: Sex and Politics: A Critical Analysis of Science and Itвђ™s Influences

It would appear that in modern society the fundamental principles that science and scientists operate upon has recently become somewhat controversial in regards to public concern. Scientists, who operate under the guise of empirical observation, have recently come to find a polarized debate regarding the relevance of the information and conclusions gained from their studies. With advances in the dissemination and availability of scientific findings, subject matters such as sexuality and gender have come under close scrutiny regarding their significance to bettering society. As representatives selected under a democratic system, it is the role of political authorities to cater to public interest and decide the importance of such studies. It is this public discord amongst controversial studies that, in turn, affects scientist’s ability to research uninfluenced by social concerns. Public controversy regarding the public’s morals, and the funding it provides, affects, both, the scope of science, as well as scientist’s ability to work objectively.

Science and its relationship to society has always been one of progression. Social expectations to improve the condition of life require scientists whose professional interests cater to those specific expectations. An idealistic state exists in which scientists empirically study and report on subjects that eventually translate into progress. According to Udry (1993), “Science is an activity that we expect to contribute to the public welfare by means of improving health, economic well-being, national security, and material comfort” (p.103). Society often requires concrete facts that can prove a clear progression of life within a specific scientific scope. It is when science fails to produce data that clearly dictates progress that such issues may be deemed unimportant. It is in areas such as sexual research that results of studies often cannot be measured by terms of progress. Further complicating its significance is the added stigma of sex. “Note that the United States is a religiously and ethically pluralistic nation” (Lanza, Robert P., Cibelli, Jose B., West, Michael D., Dorff, Elliott, Tauer, Carol, Green, Ronald M., p.1299) and a general consensus of progress amongst sexuality are often overturned by controversy within traditional social norms. According to Bullough:

Sex research has an irregular history. Much of this is due to the fact that sex has been a stigmatized subject. Proper people simply did not talk or write about it, and especially, they did not do research about it during the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries. (as cited in Troiden, 1987, p.241)

It can be concluded that the scientific research that focuses on the subject of sexuality is met with scrutiny regarding the significance of the results.

Complicating the issue further is the constant fallout of social morals that clash with the idea of sexuality. In a case of scientific research amongst gay men and club drug use, according to Genson (2003), “The Traditional Values Coalition, a group that represents over 43,000 churches in the United States and Puerto Rico, asked the NIH to justify these grants, questioning their scientific value…”( Prof sex study in question, para. 2). Genson (2003), citing NIH spokesman Mark Stern, further highlights the problem of measuring sexuality’s importance stating that “federal funding can only be taken away if scientific progress is not being made, not because a certain group does not want a subject researched. Our wanting to do the best science with federal funds has always been our concern” (Prof sex study in question, para. 10). Scientists who chose to study such fields often face harsh criticism from moral opposition.

Does society have a right to tell science what aspects they may be allowed to research? According to Alice D. Dreger (2007) in regards to psychology professor and sex researcher at Northwestern University:

…it was Bailey’s portrayal of male-to-female (MTF) transsexuals that caused a firestorm. That portrayal, based on Ray Blacnchard’s taxonomy of MTF transsexualism, drew ire from a number of prominent transgender activists who found it profoundly insulting to their senses of self and damaging to their public identities. (p.1)

Indeed, the controversial ire produced by Bailey’s studies affected his professional career as a scientist profoundly. Social protests from the transsexual community regarding the violation of personal identity carried a controversial reaction that, according to Dreger (2007), “…got about as ugly as it could.” (p.2) According to Dreger (2007), Bailey as a scientist was harassed on both a personal and professional level as a result of his studies, including accusations of scientific misconduct and a top-level investigation (Dreger, 2007, p.2). With the origins

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