Home » Vol 18, No. 1 » 2014 Student Grant Winners

2014 Grant Winners

We are pleased to announce the 2014 awardees for the John Money Fellowship and the Kinsey Institute Student Research Grants.

John Money Fellowship for Scholars of Sexology

The John Money Fellowship for Scholars of Sexology was established in 2002 by Dr. John Money, and first awarded in 2009. The fellowship supports graduate students whose scholarly work would benefit from the use of library and archival materials at The Kinsey Institute for Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. In addition to conducting his or her own research, the fellow is expected to make a contribution to the organization, preservation, and/or accessibility of The Kinsey Institute collections.

2014 John Money Fellows: Jessica Hille and Liam Oliver Lair

Jessica Hille is a doctoral student in the Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University. Her research focuses on asexuality as an identity category and an opportunity to interrogate concepts of sexuality, intimacy, and pleasure.

Sexual behavior and sexual orientation are often thought to be central to personal identity, development, and interpersonal relationships. Popular narratives around “coming out” and being “born this way” underscore modern understandings of sexual orientations: that everyone necessarily develops sexual attraction(s), and that this attraction is part of an inherent sexuality.

The rise of online communities like the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), however, has allowed people to discover and adopt asexuality as a distinct identity. Current estimates based on survey data suggest that approximately 1% of the population is asexual. Often described as individuals who do not experience sexual attraction, asexuals complicate not only conceptions of sexual orientation but of human sexuality more broadly. Jessica’s dissertation work will question the notion of human beings as inherently sexual, and examine intimacy and pleasure apart from sexual attractions. 

The 2014 John Money Fellowship for Scholars of Sexology will allow Jessica to investigate the “X” designation in the Kinsey report given to people who did not fit on the 0 to 6 scale used by Dr. Kinsey and his colleagues. These individuals did not report specific sexual behavior and have been referred to as asexuals in recent discussions of asexuality. Jessica’s project will code and analyze the X reports to determine who was designated as X, how they relate to current asexual identities and identifications, and what, if any, other demographic characteristics are common among the “Kinsey Xs.”  

Liam Oliver Lair is a PhD student in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas.

His dissertation, Disciplining Diagnoses: A Genealogy of Trans* Subject Positions and Cisnormativity, interrogates the racial and sexual investments in cisnormative standards of gender in the U.S. While sexologists initially focused on identifying and classifying “sexual mental diseases,” they eventually began to distinguish gender disorders from sexual disorders. Harry Benjamin’s The Transsexual Phenomenon (1966) marked this shift, bringing theoretical and medical diagnoses to bear on those deemed “deviant” in regard to gender. Sexologists attempted, during the 1950s and 1960s, to draw clear distinctions between transvestite (TV) and transsexual (TS) diagnoses. The discursive formation of these terms occurred in relation to mostly white, middle-class, transfeminine individuals. These developments led to a particular manifestation of cisnormative standards of gender that are still in effect.

While the categories of TV/TS will always fail to describe the complexity of cross-gendered identification, Liam's project explores the specificity and particularity of this failure. He argues that this failure is not solely a result of the limited nature of categories; it is also a result of the discursive investments present in the creation of the diagnoses, present in medical fields from which they emerged, and present in and for the individuals that take up these terms as identities. In particular, he argues that the desire to codify white, cissexual bodies as the norm affected not only trans* people in the mid-20th century, but also how we access and understand trans* identity to this day.

Honorable Mentions:

Julian Gil-Peterson, American Studies, Rutgers University
Bogdan Popa, Political Science, Indiana University-Bloomington

Kinsey Institute Student Research Grants

The Kinsey Institute Student Research Grants are awarded annually to up to four emerging sexology scholars: two at Indiana University, and two at accredited research universities nationwide. Through the Student Research Grants, the Institute seeks to fund significant and innovative research that deals with human sexuality, from a wide array of disciplines and perspectives.

The 2014 grant awardees are:

  • Mina Farahzad, Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Safak Kilictepe, Indiana University, Department of Anthropology
  • Sarah Merrill, Cornell University, Department of Human Development
  • Trenton Mize, Indiana University, Departments of Sociology & Statistics
  • Mina Farahzad, Medical College of Wisconsin
    Research area: The Association between Loss of Custody and Substance Use, HIV Risk, and Depressive Symptoms among Female Street Sex Workers

    Female street sex workers (FSSWs) are an extremely disadvantaged group with complex histories of loss. They experience high levels of stigma, poverty, and violence. In addition, FSSWs have higher rates of illicit drug use, greater HIV risk, and poorer mental health than women not involved in sex work. Despite these many hazards, it is estimated that between 70% of FSSWs are mothers, a role that they value highly. Moreover, motherhood helps position sex workers in a resistive discourse, shirking the prevalent perception of sex worker as one lacking moral worth.

    However, many FSSW mothers lose custody of their children. Previous investigations suggest that following the loss of children, women feel increasingly lonely and depressed. In order to cope with these feelings, they often increase drug use, further exacerbating the cycle of drug use and sex work. Moreover, continued sex work and drug use inhibits women’s ability to regain custody of their children.

    To date, there has been no systematic evaluation of the association between loss of custody and substance use, HIV risk, and depressive symptoms among FSSWs. This study will evaluate this association using quantitative surveys. Furthermore, in order to add depth and context to the quantitative findings, FSSWs will be engaged in in-depth interviews to provide their experiences of substance use and mental health as it relates to their children.

    Safak Kilictepe, Indiana University, Department of Anthropology
    Research area: Pronatalist Government Policies and Politics of Reproduction in Turkey

    Reproductive policies have multiple effects on women’s biological, social, and political bodies (Ginsburg and Rapp 1991). In the last decade, the Turkish government has become increasingly concerned with decreasing birth rates. To increase the fertility rate in Turkey, the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been encouraging families to have at least three, preferably five children. The government has introduced new regulations in the medical system for family planning purposes by limiting abortions and C-section births, allowing doctors who have detected pregnancy in married and unmarried women to inform the families of these women about their pregnancies, giving married heterosexual couples incentives for child bearing, and providing incentives for early-age marriages.

    By conducting ethnographic research, namely in-depth interviews and participant observation in Turkey, this study aims to investigate the extent to which pronatalist policies have shaped women’s reproductive experiences and their decisions about reproduction, to learn about how women are responding to new legislations about reproduction, and to understand how these policies have affected women’s bodies and everyday lives.

    Sarah Merrill, Cornell University, Department of Human Development
    Research area: Effect of Stimuli Environment and Peripheral Attention Bias on Female Discordance in Genital and Subjective Sexual Arousal

    Measures of genital arousal have illuminated specific sex differences: most men show genital arousal almost exclusively to one sex, while most women show substantial genital arousal to both sexes regardless of their sexual orientation. Given the influence and import of context as a determinant of female sexual response, it is plausible that the discordance between female subjective and genital arousal reported thus far is partially a function of the experimental environment utilized.

    In this study, Sarah proposes to examine this possibility by systematically varying the type and intensity of visual sexual stimuli participants are exposed to, in the hope that differences in the degree of discordance between female subjective and genital arousal may be detected. This arousal will be assessed by self-report, vaginal photoplethysmography, and pupil dilation measurement. Additionally, eye-tracking will allow investigators to pinpoint within stimuli conditions what participants are focusing on, as well as comparing these attentional biases to different levels of concordance between the three related measures.

    Trenton Mize, Indiana University, Departments of Sociology & Statistics
    Research area: “Status Disadvantages for Gay Men and Lesbian Leaders: Orientation or Masculinity?”

    Gay men and lesbians face discrimination, harassment, and violence based on their identity and also face inequality in laws that limit their legal rights. Prior studies have detailed the discrimination that sexual minorities face in the labor market, in the law, and in dealing with physical violence, with recent studies showing discrimination in the hiring process and outlining income penalties for gay men.

    Despite the multiple studies on inequality due to sexual orientation, the reason behind the discrimination remains underexplored, with little research examining why sexual minorities face biases in social interaction. Using experimental methods, Trenton will examine the disadvantage gay men and lesbian leaders face in order to disentangle the effects of a sexual minority identity from masculinity and gender conformity to uncover the mechanism behind disadvantage.

    Congratulations to all our award winners!


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