Troubling Popularisation: On the Gendered Circuits of a 'Scientific' Knowledge of Sex

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With the recent transnational turn in sexology studies, scholars have been highly effective in demonstrating the dialogical nature of exchanges between sexologists and other professionals. Even so, the problem of what counts as “sexological” still haunts the field. One way to circumvent this impasse on the vexing question of disciplinarity is to, first, think about knowledge production in relation to knowledge exchange and, second, bring gender into the frame. Drawing on the critique of popularization developed by historians and sociologists of science, I turn to the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology as a case study to argue that popularization is a blunt instrument, providing limited understanding of the gendered nature of knowledge acquisition and circulation. A different model—called ventilation—allows the historian to step outside the logic of popularization to explain how dissemination itself bestowed agency to ordinary women and men, who became co-producers of modern sexual knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-318
JournalGender & History
Issue number2
Early online date12 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • popularisation, sexology, public dissemination, sexual knowledge, gendered knowledge


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