Constructing Causal Stories and Moral Boundaries

Stephen Ellingson

in The Sexual Organization of the City

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780226470313
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226470337 | DOI:
Constructing Causal Stories and Moral Boundaries

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This chapter examines institutional approaches to sexual problems by analyzing the interpretive stories and intervention strategies employed by healthcare and social-service organizations in Chicago. While institutional actors primarily rely on an institutionally specific lens and resources to address sexuality issues, they also draw on broad cultural understandings about human agency, sexual risk, and sexual values. Since the nineteenth century, those working within health care, social work, and law enforcement have increasingly relied on the assumption that human beings are rational actors. This assumption is part of a larger neoliberal political ideology in which citizens are understood to be autonomous and self-regulating. With regard to sexuality, individuals are assumed to act in their own self-interest and, hence, to avoid risky sexual behaviors and situations. Health care and social services tend to understand risk as an objective and measurable hazard and, hence, avoidable by changing behaviors, attitudes, or environments.

Keywords: sexual problems; intervention strategies; Chicago; human agency; sexual risk; sexual values; rationality; sexuality; health care; social services

Chapter.  10150 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Urban and Rural Studies

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