By pretending to be a simple voyeur, Humphreys explains that he systematically observed these activities and even recorded the license plate numbers of a sample of tearoom participants. While the systematic observation part of his study permitted an understanding of the rules and roles, patterns of collective action, and risks of the game associated with impersonal gay sex in public restrooms, his tracking down and interviewing a handful of the subjects allowed Humphreys to better understand the identity, lives, and rationality of those men involved in the so-called tearoom trade. While the author defended the ethics behind his research early on, he was still stunned by the backlash it received. In response to such issues, I will use this post to critically evaluate the strong and weak points of his book. Secondly, I found it interesting that Humphreys classified the participants by occupational status and marital status: trade, ambisexuals, gay, and closet queens. I further found it intriguing for Humphreys to suggest that closet queens may be the most dangerous of the groups to society because of their attraction toward youth and because of their relative unattractiveness to adults.
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Perhaps not surprisingly, given the topic, the research was highly controversial, however this was not just due to its sensitive subject matter.
A number of criticisms were made of the study on the basis of its ethically dubious research methods. While Warwick , p. Wright Mills Award for research. Following a research paper he wrote on the subject of homosexuality in Humphreys realised that very little research had taken place into the kind of people engaged in this deviant activity. Social scientists have avoided this area of deviant behaviour……..
Humphreys , p. It was important for him to offer; some explanation as to why and how these people participate in the particular form of behaviour described. Humphreys, , p. He adopted an inductive approach to his research and believed that; hypotheses should develop out of such ethnographic work rather than provide restrictions and distortions from its inception Humphreys, , p.
Humphreys employed two distinct methods of research within the study. When someone approaches, he coughs. He nods when the coast is clear.
Secondly, in order to gain reliable demographic data on the individuals taking part in the activity, Humphreys undertook a process of structured interview under the guise of a social health survey. Burnham et al, , p. For instance Burnham et al , p. As with the majority of qualitative research, there is also the problem of whether a relatively small sample is representative of a population or ethnic group.
However as Burnham et al ,p. Nevertheless there are many scholars who believe that participant observation has a great deal to offer the social scientist. Indeed May , p. The central criticisms levelled at the work have been in regard to the deception involved and the invasion of privacy. As Warwick , p. Firstly he was; convinced that there is only one way to watch discreditable behaviour and that is to pretend to be in the same boat with those engaging in it.
Clearly then, for Humphreys, the question of validity meant that the ends justified the means. There is a lot of merit to this argument, it is hard to imagine how such a wealth and depth of data could be achieved through any other research method.
As Rhodes et al , p. It is difficult to see how else this could have been achieved, in this case, without the element of deception. Reiss , p. Goodwin et al, , cited in Babbie, , p. Warwick , p. Warwick, , p. It was the first study of its type and as Lenza , p. Desroches, , p. It has addressed the objectives of the research and its success in achieving them. In keeping with the main problems associated with covert participation observation, there are major concerns in regards to sample size and the demographic representativeness of the subjects.
There are also the obvious criticisms in terms of deception and invasion of privacy. As Erikson , p. An appropriate summing up is made by Babbie , p.
A Critical Analysis of Laud Humphrey’s The Tearoom Trade Essay
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the topic, the research was highly controversial, however this was not just due to its sensitive subject matter. A number of criticisms were made of the study on the basis of its ethically dubious research methods. While Warwick , p. Wright Mills Award for research. Following a research paper he wrote on the subject of homosexuality in Humphreys realised that very little research had taken place into the kind of people engaged in this deviant activity. Social scientists have avoided this area of deviant behaviour……..
Laud Humphreys and the Tearoom Sex Study
Laud Humphreys and the Tearoom Sex Study Laud Humphreys, a sociologist, recognized that the public and the law-enforcement authorities hold highly simplistic stereotyped beliefs about men who commit impersonal sexual acts with one another in public restrooms. Humphreys decided that it would be of considerable social importance for society to gain more objective understanding of who these men are and what motivates them to seek quick, impersonal sexual gratification. For his Ph. He stationed himself in "tearooms" and offered to serve as "watchqueen" - the individual who keeps watch and coughs when a police car stops nearby or a stranger approaches. He played that role faithfully while observing hundreds of acts of fellatio.