The Sexual Organization of the City

The Sexual Organization of the City

Edward O. Laumann, Stephen Ellingson, Jenna Mahay, Anthony Paik, and Yoosik Youm

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226470313

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


We think of the city as a place where anything goes. Take the sensational fantasies and lurid antics of single women on Sex and the City or young men on Queer as Folk, and you might imagine the city as some kind of sexual playground—a place where you can have any kind of sex you want, with whomever you like, anytime or anywhere you choose. But this book argues that this idea is a myth. Drawing on extensive surveys and interviews with Chicago adults, it shows that the city is—to the contrary—a place where sexual choices and options are constrained. From Wicker Park and Boys Town to the South Side and Pilsen, they observe that sexual behavior and partnering are significantly limited by such factors as which neighborhood you live in, your ethnicity, what your sexual preference might be, or the circle of friends to which you belong. In other words, the social and institutional networks that city dwellers occupy potentially limit their sexual options by making different types of sexual activities, relationships, or meeting places less accessible. To explain this idea of sex in the city, the book develops a theory of sexual marketplaces—the places where people look for sexual partners. It then uses this theory to consider a variety of questions about sexuality. Shedding new light on the city of Chicago, this work recasts our ideas about human sexual behavior.

Table of Contents

Part One) Introduction

1) The Theory of Sex Markets

Stephen Ellingson, Edward O. Laumann, Anthony Paik, and Jenna Mahay

2) The Chicago Health and Social Life Survey Design

Martha Van Haitsma, Anthony Paik, and Edward O. Laumann

Part Two) The Structure of Urban Sexual Markets

3) Neighborhoods as Sex Markets

Jenna Mahay and Edward O. Laumann

Part Three) Sexual and Social Consequences of Sexual Marketplaces

5) Meeting and Mating over the Life Course

Jenna Mahay and Edward O. Laumann

7) Commitment, Jealousy, and the Quality of Life

Anthony Paik, Edward O. Laumann, and Martha Van Haitsma

8) Violence and Sexuality

Jennifer Tello Buntin, Zohar Lechtman, and Edward O. Laumann

9) Social Networks and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Yoosik Youm and Edward O. Laumann

Part Four) Institutional Responses and Silences

11) Religion and the Politics of Sexuality

Stephen Ellingson, Martha Van Haitsma, Edward O. Laumann, and Nelson Tebbe

12) The Cultural Economy of Urban Sexuality

Stephen Ellingson, Jenna Mahay, Anthony Paik, and Edward O. Laumann