In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • New Directions in Latina Sexualities Studies
  • Lorena García (bio) and Lourdes Torres (bio)

This special issue on Latina sexualities extends the critical conversations that unfolded among the scholars and activists who convened in April, 2008, for the national conference, Race, Sex, and Power: New Movements in Black & Latina/o Sexualities. The energy and lively enthusiasm of all who planned and participated in this historic gathering made it evident that many have already taken seriously the call by various scholars to center sexuality as a legitimate analytical category (see, for example, McBride 2007; Ping 1998; Yarbro-Bejarano 1999). Many of us walked away from that experience further convinced of the need to dislodge the study of sexuality from the margins of our respective disciplines and interdisciplinary fields. Moreover, it is generally understood that such a commitment will continue to require us to partake in dialogues across our paradigmatic, conceptual, and methodological boundaries if we are to truly continue to cultivate multi- and interdisciplinary scholarship that focuses on sexuality and communities of color.

These conversations are sorely needed given the pathologizing and racializing that is central to much of the existent work on the sexualities of people of color. Additionally, they are necessary if we are to get beyond the predominant black-white racial paradigm in the United States that disregards the long history and significant contributions of immigrants and other people of color in this country. Most of the circulated work that does attend to the sexualities of people of color tends to address African American issues to the exclusion of other people of color. The limited research on Latina sexualities that does exist, for the most part, continues to perpetuate long standing stereotypes and assumptions such as the virgin-whore dichotomy which defines femininity as intrinsically dangerous and produces a set of restrictive extremes (Everett 2000; Gil and Vazquez 1996). Latinas are essentialized as either long-suffering, traditional, and sexually repressed, or eroticized as promiscuous and out of control. These stereotypes are commonly reflected in film, literature, and other cultural forms, surface in the social sciences, and inform discussions on immigration, health, and public policy (Aparicio 1998; Ortiz and Briggs 2003; Zavella 2003).

Over the last twenty years, we have witnessed the gradual emergence of research and theorizing on Latina sexualities within disciplines in the social sciences (Asencio 2002; González-López 2005; Hurtado 2003; Zavella 1997) and the humanities (Alarcón, Castillo, and Moraga 1993; [End Page vii] Anzaldúa 1987; Moraga 1983), and interdisciplinary fields such as Latina/o studies, cultural studies, and feminist studies (Blake 2008; Fregoso 2003; Rodríguez 2003; Taylor and Villegas 1994). However, knowledge on Latina sexualities has flourished more in some disciplines and interdisciplinary fields than others, helping to explain the gaps in the literature that currently exist. For example, the humanities have much more readily engaged issues and questions about Latinas' sexualities, exemplified in early edited texts such as Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About (1991) and The Sexuality of Latinas (1993), that culled together Chicana and Latina perspectives on sexuality expressed through genres such as fiction, poetry, and autobiographical and critical essays. While such works provide important insight into the sexual lives of Latinas, we are still in need of empirical research that uncovers all that sexuality encompasses for Latinas, such as sexual identity and pleasure and the ways in which institutions and structures impact Latinas' sexual subjectivities.

The use of an intersectional lens to study Latinas' lives has proven invaluable in empirical scholarship, particularly in challenging the longstanding, white middle-class bias that has characterized descriptions of Latinas' sexuality as primarily culturally determined and deficient. In these problematic accounts of Latinas, their experiences have typically been explained as by-products of their culture, such as the assumption that Latinas are sexually repressed because of their blind adherence to cultural gender expectations. Feminist scholars, particularly Chicana and Latina scholars, have drawn upon intersectionality as an analytical tool to not only demonstrate that a focus on culture alone is insufficient to comprehend the lives of Latinas, but also that culture is indeed dynamic for Latinas/os and not simply mired in tradition. While such work has offered...