I am currently a postdoctoral scholar at Northwestern University. My research and teaching interests include gender, sexuality, rural sociology, qualitative and quantitative methods, and race/ethnicity.
My research examines how individuals negotiate and understand social categories that—while often perceived as natural—are actually affected by social context. Specifically, I examine gender and sexual identities, including their intersections with race, place, class, and age, and investigate diversity within them. As a mixed-methods researcher, I conduct research using interviews and secondary data analysis of nationally representative surveys. Doing so allows me to detail complex, nuanced themes and to uncover broad social relationships at the national level. Examinations of meaning-making processes are usually the focus of qualitative research, but I seek to bring this focus to quantitative research as I utilize nationally representative data to examine sexual identities.
Behaviors and identities do not always match. In my doctoral project, “Bud-Sex: Sexual Flexibility Among Rural White Straight Men Who Have Sex With Men,” I explore this disconnect between behavior and identity through 60 in-depth interviews with rural white men who have sex with men, but identify as straight. My findings demonstrate that social context plays an important role in mediating the relationship between behavior and identity.
A widespread misperception about men in this population is that they are “actually” gay or bisexual. My project helps clarify why that is not the case by highlighting the difference between sexual orientation and sexual identity. Sexual orientation refers to how individuals experience their attractions, fantasies, and desires, as well as their sexual practices. Sexual identity refers to how individuals understand their sexuality in the context of other aspects of their lives, especially cultural groups (like gay or straight communities) and institutions (like marriage). My participants experienced a wide variety of sexual desires, fantasies, and attractions, and different sexual histories, but all had sex with men and identified as straight. To them “straight” referred more to their identification with mainstream heterosexual institutions, such as conventional marriage, and straight culture more broadly.
My published papers appear in Social Forces, Sociological Perspectives, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, Gender & Society, and Sexualities (see the "publications" tab).
In terms of teaching, I have a wide range of experience in introductory courses, such as Social Inequality, and methods courses, such as Quantitative Methods in Sociology and Introduction to Research Methods.