A keen supporter of international study, [Egan] has accompanied students to Thailand to study the country's controversial sex industry. She's also heading up a committee to develop a gender studies major at St. Lawrence.
With a deep background in women's studies and sociology, Danielle Egan '95 certainly didn't expect to spend her graduate school years studying exotic dance. But when a good friend chose to become a dancer to pay her way through grad school, Egan accompanied her to the clubs to document and analyze the experiences as a feminist project.
Egan's fascination with the unique relationships and sociological situations that occur at exotic dance clubs sustained her studies at Boston College, where she earned her doctorate, and later at St. Lawrence University, where she has been teaching sociology and gender studies since 2000.
Egan went with her friend to exotic dance clubs regularly and saw the same guys again and again. Some of these men would spend thousands of dollars on dancers—women they had no contact with outside the club, Egan says.
"One of my initial questions was ‘‘What's going on in their lives to make these men go to an exotic dance club every night?' To me, as a sociologist and a feminist, it was a very interesting thing to figure out. It's still fascinating," Egan says.
Her research was published in her first book, Dancing for Dollars and Paying for Love: The Relationships Between Exotic Dancers and Their Regulars, which sheds light on the dynamics of desire and fantasy while examining current feminist debates about the relationship between the sex industry and women's power. She is also one of three editors behind Flesh for Fantasy: Producing and Consuming Exotic Dance, an essay collection that provides a first-hand look at the exotic dance industry.
Egan also has published work in numerous scholarly journals, including Critical Sociology; Body and Society; Deviant Behavior; and The Journal of Psychoanalysis, Society and Culture.
Her studies now are shifting toward childhood sexuality. Collaborating with Australian sociologist Gail Hawkes, Egan is researching perceptions of children and sexuality throughout history for a forthcoming book.
"I think that right now, children and sexuality is such a taboo topic," says Egan. "We look at children as asexual beings, but at the same time, we hypersexualize them in the media and popular culture. I'm looking at how those ideas came into being."
Egan is equally engrossed in her role as a professor. A keen supporter of international study, she has accompanied students to Thailand to study the country's controversial sex industry. She's also heading up a committee to develop a gender studies major at St. Lawrence.
In 2005, Egan received St. Lawrence's Louis and Frances Maslow Award, an annual honor that goes to the faculty member "who has shown the most interest in and understanding of the education and welfare of the student body as a whole."
Egan credits her undergrad alma mater with her enduring love of education: "The reason that I teach at a college is because of Goucher. Being there as an undergraduate instilled in me a love for liberal-arts learning," she says.
Egan says she views teaching and learning as "a political act and an interesting and complex way to look at the issues of the day." And though she says students can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the global social issues raised in their courses, she's excited about the future of interdisciplinary majors such as gender studies.
"I think the exciting thing about gender studies and these kind of interdisciplinary programs is how they help students to see what's wrong with the world around us, and help give them the tools to help change it," says Egan.