A common assumption is that “sex sells.” Could this also apply to sociological research? I have watched as two stories about sociological research have made their way through the media.
1. Do a Google search for “erotic capital” and you will find reference to sociologist Catherine Hakim’s term. Read a quick overview of the term here.
2. A New York Times article from the weekend titled “Another Reason to Avoid His Friends” briefly discusses a study in the July 2011 issue American Journal of Sociology titled “Network Position and Sexual Dysfunction: Implications of Partner Betweenness for Men.”
If these two pieces of research could be distributed to a broad representative sample of American sociologists, here are a few things that I would want to ask:
1. Do you think research that covers a topic like sex (or celebrity or political scandals, etc.) is more likely to get a positive reception and more coverage from the media and the American public?
2. Does publicity about a sociological research finding make the research more or less important within the field of sociology?
3. Do you think it is good for sociologists to promote any research that would appeal to the public rather than research that might be more consequential? In other words, is all publicity good publicity?
For the record, I have not looked closely into either pieces of research and therefore could not assess the quality myself. A sociologist from the London School of Economics and a piece published in AJS might get attention anyway since they have already come from respected institutions. But I think these pieces could lead to interesting discussions about how research within the discipline matches what might be popular among the American public and whether these two interests should match up and whether this helps the academic discipline of sociology.