Discovering Human Sexuality, 3rd Edition
Discovering Human Sexuality, Third Edition, is the continuation of a textbook that originated in 2003 with the publication of Human Sexuality by Simon LeVay and Sharon Valente. Since then, the book has gone through several changes of authorship, format, and title. One consistency, however, has been the identity of the lead author. Another has been the book’s high academic and pedagogical standards, which have earned it a prominent place in the market and broad praise from reviewers and users, including the kind words cited above.
The Second Edition of Human Sexuality appeared in 2006 with the same two authors. For the 2009 edition, however, Janice Baldwin replaced Sharon Valente. Also, we decided to produce two distinct versions of the book. One of them— Human Sexuality, Third Edition—continued the approach pioneered in the earlier editions. The other, which we titled Discovering Human Sexuality, was a somewhat shorter and more accessible version that demanded less prior knowledge on the part of the students, especially in the area of biology. John Baldwin joined LeVay and Janice Baldwin as third author of this version. In 2012 we continued with the same two versions (Human Sexuality, Fourth Edition, and Discovering Human Sexuality, Second Edition).
For the current edition we have decided to merge the two versions into one, which we have titled Discovering Human Sexuality, Third Edition. It was a difficult decision to make because both versions had been successful in the marketplace and each served a somewhat different need. However, the workload involved in producing two different textbooks at the same time was excessive. In addition, we realized that we could incorporate the best features of Human Sexuality into Discovering Human Sexuality by judicious changes to the text and by the addition of two appendices containing more advanced “optional” material.
Features of Discovering Human Sexuality, Third Edition Important features of Discovering Human Sexuality distinguish our book from competing texts: evidence-based approach We believe that human sexuality is an academic subject like any other, meaning that it should be grounded in reason. Throughout the book, we have sought to present statements that are supported by data, ideas that are tested or testable, and recommendations that are based on research. There are many unanswered questions in sexuality, of course—questions about how abnormal modes of sexual expression (paraphilic disorders) develop, for example, and how best to treat them. In dealing with these controversies, an evidence-based approach demands a nondogmatic style and a willingness to admit that not everything is known. Some students may feel challenged to enter the field of sex research themselves in order to help fill those gaps in our understanding.
Some human sexuality texts contain a great deal of advice to students, especially in the area of relationships. Much of this advice has no objective basis and seems designed more to transmit the authors’ values than to foster an authentic learning experience. In Discovering Human Sexuality, we keep the total quantity of advice down and try to ensure that the advice we do give has been “field-tested.” Even in such an elementary matter as how to put on a condom, many texts include useless steps, such as squeezing the tip of the condom to leave space for the ejaculate. Doing so serves no purpose— the man who could burst a condom with his ejaculate has yet to be born—and neither the World Health Organization nor the leading U.S. experts believe that it should be part of the instructions for condom use. It has become an element in the folklore that gets perpetuated by textbooks— though not by this one.
Literature citations are, of course, an important element of an evidence-based book. We have been surprised by how cavalierly some competing books deal with this issue—quite commonly, citations in the text are not matched by any corresponding entries in the bibliography. In Discovering Human Sexuality we have made every effort to ensure that references are fully documented. Another common practice that we consider unacademic is referring to original research studies by citing magazine or newspaper articles that mention them, rather than the journal articles in which the research was presented. Our policy has been to cite original sources wherever possible, and to use magazine and newspaper references for the kinds of topics they excel at, such as news stories, cultural trends, and the like. emphasis on diversity Today’s college students come from a wide range of backgrounds, and in their adult lives they will have to deal with people very different from themselves. Our text presents this diversity in a detailed and nonjudgmental fashion. For example, with regard to sexual orientation, we go far beyond “gay,” “bisexual,” and “straight”: We talk about the ever changing history of the butch-femme dichotomy in lesbian culture, women whose self-identity is too fluid for one-word labels, gay men who are “bears” or “bear cubs” or into the leather scene, what it’s like to be gay and Asian-American or Native American, how the gay experience differs for different generations of Americans and for gay people around the world, and so on. Similarly, we take pains to discuss racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, as they affect sexuality, and of course diversity in the actual modes of sexual behavior—including some of the more unusual forms of sexual expression such as “adult babies” and men whose partners are (literally) dolls. presentation style Simon LeVay, Janice Baldwin, and John Baldwin are all experienced authors of college textbooks. In creating Discovering Human Sexuality, we have pooled our writing skills to ensure that the text is fully accessible, engaging, and relevant to students of diverse backgrounds. The result of these combined efforts is, we believe, the most readable and student friendly human sexuality text on the market.
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