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Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 10 illustrations Published: December 2012

Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Sex and Sexuality, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

For all its vaunted attention to sexuality, queer theory has had relatively little to say about sex, the material and psychic practices through which erotic gratification is sought. In Orgasmology, Annamarie Jagose takes orgasm as her queer scholarly object. From simultaneous to fake orgasms, from medical imaging to pornographic visualization, from impersonal sexual publics to domestic erotic intimacies, Jagose traces the career of orgasm across the twentieth century.

Along the way, she examines marriage manuals of the 1920s and 1930s, designed to teach heterosexual couples how to achieve simultaneous orgasms; provides a queer reading of behavioral modification practices of the 1960s and 1970s, aimed at transforming gay men into heterosexuals; and demonstrates how representations of orgasm have shaped ideas about sexuality and sexual identity.

A confident and often counterintuitive engagement with feminist and queer traditions of critical thought, Orgasmology affords fresh perspectives on not just sex, sexual orientation, and histories of sexuality, but also agency, ethics, intimacy, modernity, selfhood, and sociality. As modern subjects, we presume we already know everything there is to know about orgasm. This elegantly argued book suggests that orgasm still has plenty to teach us.


“[W]hile thinking too hard about achieving orgasm in the bedroom (…or kitchen…or office…or elsewhere) may foreclose its possibility, Jagose shows the opposite effect occurs in critical inquiry.” — Marcie Bianco, Lambda Literary Review

“Altogether, I did learn more about orgasms. As a piece of cultural criticism, it is scholarly and carefully wrought. . . . The strength of Jagose’s book lies not in the repetition of this romantic position but rather in its careful trace of the human orgasm in social, medical and representational history. ‘Seeing’ orgasm’s trace in this way is quite handy.” — Sally R. Munt, Times Higher Education

“The diversity of the archival material covered in Orgasmology is the book’s greatest strength. Jagose’s method is an intricate meshwork of discourses, unified by her focus on the same elusive object. . . . Jagose offers a fascinating tour of the orgasm in the 20th-century. . . .” — Sand Avidar-Walzer, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Orgasmology is a frothy series of engagements with the cultural-bodily terrain of orgasm. . . . A good gift for the feminist-studies grad student who doesn’t have time for orgasms.”  — Ela Przbylo, Bitch

Orgasmology itself enacts the discursive diversity and productivity that characterizes twentieth-century orgasm. Eloquently written, and supple and wide-ranging in its argument, the book is bound to produce galvanizing effects on scholars working in queer theory, gender studies and cultural studies.” — Guy Davidson, Australian Humanities Review

Orgasmology surprises more often than not, questioning queer and straight orthodoxies alike. More than a niche read for those steeped in the arcane world of queer theory, Orgasmology’s provocative and insistent questioning of the apparently self-evident facts of sex makes it a rewarding read for anyone interested in the history of human sexuality.” — Emily McAvan, Global Comment

“Jagose’s interdisciplinary archive – spanning science, philosophy, the arts, and media – structurally parallels the multivalence of her research subject and offers exciting contributions to the fields of feminist and queer studies. . . . Jagose’s commitment to thinking orgasm in terms of a beyond, of elsewheres previously unknown, is compelling, exciting, and inspiring for anyone interested in busting the paradigms, and reinventing the possibilities, of the sexual and indeed the human.” — Ben Bagocius, Make

Orgasmology utilizes queer theory and is therefore useful when discussing this theory. It could also be used in the classroom in order to discuss methodology and subject matters that are not as obvious as others (for example orgasm is quite a tricky subject matter).” — Elin Weiss, Metapsychology Online Reviews

"Jagose models the payoff of looking at again, more, differently, or sideways after you (think that you) have taken a stance on something — including orgasms. As I read Orgasmology, I kept pausing to revisit texts and cultural moments that I have long found generative for queer thinking that either looked differently interesting from the orgasm out or from the orgasm revisited with the benefit of Jagose’seye toward history, representation, science, instruction, and politics."  — Erica Rand, GLQ

Orgasmology is penned with elegance and clarity. The tone is scholarly, with some welcome spots of humour. Jagose’s analysis demonstrates an encyclopaedic knowledge of queer and feminist scholarship. Her critical eye is shrewd: nothing is taken for granted, and the author constantly unsettles accepted ways of thinking and arguing.” — Jay Daniel Thompson, M/C Reviews

Orgasmology is an intriguing theoretical work and while Jagose’s prose is too complex to assign to undergraduates, sexuality scholars will find Orgasmology challenges them to think outside the confines of current sexuality theory and to maintain the growth and dynamism that has been a feature of sexuality studies since its inception.” — Heather Stanley, Canadian Journal of History

“The discussion of Shortbus demonstrates Jagose’s talent for imaginative close readings, which she folds into a broad and synthetic account of large swathes of cultural material.” — Damon R. Young, Continuum

"Jagose’s appeal to take the orgasm seriously will resonate with many queer scholars. Indeed, this historiographic project is itself formidable in its commitment to putting the work of medicine, art, and popular culture in dialogue with the biological and the social realms, two seemingly unlike arenas that she convincingly insists are mutually constitutive." — Alyxandra Vesey, QED

"Orgasmology disrupts queer doxa through a renewed emphasis on the materiality of sexual practice. Neither gay nor straight, queer nor normative, male nor female, orgasm shows up everywhere; its lability allows Annamarie Jagose to roam freely across a wide range of critical discourses, scenes, and textual objects. Sentence by sentence, this book is extremely rewarding—funny, finely observed, and smart in all the right places." — Heather Love, author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History

"Just when they told you queer theory was dead, along comes a book that shows, yet again, what all the excitement was—and still is—about. Annamarie Jagose's patient, systematic demonstration that orgasm is the deconstruction of sex may seem at first to be pretty standard stuff, but the picture it discloses of the rise of twentieth-century sexuality, and of heterosexuality in particular, is so lucid and so surprising that you wonder why we never could see it in such eloquent detail before. You finish this book feeling ten times smarter than when you started it." — David M. Halperin, author of How To Be Gay


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Annamarie Jagose is the author of Inconsequence: Lesbian Representation and the Logic of Sexual Sequence and of Queer Theory: An Introduction.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface xi

Acknowledgments xix

Introduction. Orgasm and the Long Twentieth Century 1

1. About Time: Simultaneous Orgasm and Sexual Normalcy 40

2. Straight Woman / Gay Man: Orgasm and the Double Blind of Modern Sex 78

3. Behaviorism's Queer Trace: Sexuality and Orgasmic Reconditioning 106

4. Face Off: Artistic and Medico-Sexological Visualizations of Orgasm 135

5. Counterfeit Pleasures: Fake Orgasm and Queer Agency 175

Coda. Orgasm's End 207

Works Cited 217

Index 239
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5391-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5377-5
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