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Laura M. Carpenter

Associate Professor of Sociology

Laura M. Carpenter is Associate Professor of Sociology.  Her scholarship and teaching focus on gender, sexuality, and health over the life course.  In particular, she seeks to understand how cultural beliefs (such as interpretations of virginity as a gift, stigma, or step in growing up) influence social experiences (such as sexual initiation) and how individual biographies are shaped by broader historical processes.  She also investigates symbolic politics—that is, how people use debates about one phenomenon, such as male circumcision, to fight about other things, such as medical overreach or the meaning of pain.  Carpenter’s books include Virginity Lost: An Intimate Portrait of First Sexual Experiences (NYU Press, 2005) and (as coeditor) Sex for Life: From Virginity to Viagra, How Sexuality Changes Throughout our Lives (NYU Press, 2012).  Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and National Institutes of Health.  She received the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center Mentoring Award in 2018.