Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Kopelson, Karen Lynn

Author's Keywords

Rhetorical space; Sexuality


Sexology--Social aspects; Sexology--Research; Sexologists; Journal of sex research


In this dissertation, I adopt a praxical theory of rhetorical space to identify and examine how members of The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality draw on or invoke rhetorical spatiality in their research published in the Journal of Sex Research. My specific research questions were: (1) What types of rhetorical spaces do sexologists create? and, (2) What rhetorical strategies do sexologists use to create rhetorical spaces? The dissertation is divided into five chapters that present different investigations of the production of rhetorical space in The Journal of Sex Research. Chapter One introduces the theoretical and methodological foundation for the examination of rhetorical space in the Journal of Sex Research. Chapter Two incorporates Edward Soja’s (1993) theory of thirdspace into the literature on rhetorical space to examine how sexologists create rhetorical cyberthirdspaces that represent and regulate sexualities in online environments. In particular,the second chapter presents three rhetorical cyber-thirdspaces (erotic oasis, pornosphere, and Jim Crow Cyb) created by sexologists publishing in the Journal of Sex. Each of these three rhetorical cyber-thirdspaces represents and perpetuates a different theory of the causes and consequences of sexuality on the Web in relation to the argument that the Internet has democratized sexuality. The rhetorical cyber-thirdspaces differ, however, with respect to the implications of the democratization of sexuality identified by the scholars conducting the research on the cyberspace. Chapter Two also examines how problems associated with research design (theoretical ambiguity, conceptual ambiguity, methodological formalism, exaggeration of causal events, extrapolation from limited cases, proxy evidence, misplaced concreteness, and self-testing) inform the construction of rhetorical cyber-thirdspaces in the Journal of Sex Research. Chapter Three draws on Ernest Bormann’s (1972, 1980. 1986, 2001, and 2006) theory of symbolic convergence and fantasy theme analysis to examine how sexologists invoke the imagination as a reinvention device in arguments regarding the nature and effects of women's rape fantasies. Specific attention is directed toward how sexologists have created a new rhetorical vision of the rape fantasy that sexualizes or eroticizes rape, while at the same time maintaining the assumption that women are not willful rape victims. And Chapter Four examines how the editors and contributors to a special issue of the Journal of Sex Research devoted to the medicalization of sexuality draw on spatial rhetorics, particularly spatial metaphors and appeals to contextualization, to encourage sexologists to broaden their disciplinary boundaries. The dissertation ends with a conclusion, in Chapter Five, which argues that rhetorical space functions as an invention strategy that sexologists use to create or support arguments about sexual social control, agency, or disciplinary boundaries with respect to cyberspace, imaginative space, and disciplinary space.