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Jennifer S. Hirsch

Jennifer S. Hirsch

Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University, Co-Author of Sexual Citizens

Jennifer S. Hirsch

Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University, Co-Author of Sexual Citizens


Jennifer S. Hirsch, a Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University, is widely recognized as one of the nation’s top voices researching gender, sexuality and health. She works at the intersection of public health and social science, with a research agenda that examines gender, sexuality and migration, the anthropology of love, gender-based violence, social dimensions of HIV and undergraduate well-being, including sexual assault. In recognition of the impact of her work, Jennifer was named one of New York City’s 16 “Heroes in the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence” in 2017.

Hirsch co-directed the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation (SHIFT), a research project on sexual assault and sexual health among Columbia undergraduates. With Shamus Khan, she is co-author of Sexual Citizens: Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus, which draws on SHIFT’s ethnographic research to examine sexual assault and consensual sex among undergraduates in relation to the broader context of campus life. 

Their work is so important that NPR named it a Best Book of 2020. “This is the book to read to help lead conversations about sex,” said Justine Kenin, editor of All Things Considered. “It reframes the dialogue and helps prepare young people for sexual relationships. Read it, share it. Empower the young folks in your life.”

Hirsch co-directs the Columbia Population Research Center, which brings together faculty from schools across the campus who work on population health and inequalities. A 2012 Guggenheim Fellow, a 2015 Public Voices Fellow and a 2018-19 Visiting Research Scholar with Princeton’s Center for Health and Well-Being, Hirsch’s published work includes scholarly and popular writing on health and social inequality. She is the author of A Courtship After Marriage: Sexuality and Love in Mexican Transnational Families, the award-winning coauthored The Secret: Love, Marriage and HIV, two edited volumes on the anthropology of love, more than 80 peer-reviewed articles, 15 book chapters and many op-eds in venues such as TIME and The Hill.

Hirsch also recently completed six years of service as a board member for Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, including the last two as board chair. Hirsch earned her A.B. from Princeton University in History, with a certificate in Women’s Studies and her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in Population Dynamics and Anthropology. 

In her public speaking, Hirsch draws on her research as well as on her personal experience — as the mother of two young adult sons, as a sex educator, as an active member of her temple and as an advocate.

Speaker Videos

Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan | Sexual Citizens

Jennifer Hirsch and Shamus Khan: "Sexual Citizens"

Speech Topics

How Your Community Can Prevent Sexual Assault

“What is sex for?” Most young people today can’t answer that question, largely because few adults have talked to them about it. Sexual Projects is the answer to what sex is for (for example, for pleasure, to connect with another, to have children, etc.). In this enlightening and highly informative talk, Professor Jennifer S. Hirsch draws on her research as well as her experience as a parent and sex educator to give parents, organizations and communities the tools to be able to talk openly about the kind of sexual projects she hopes that young people will pursue.

Preparing Kids for College & Beyond: Lessons From the Columbia Sexual Assault Study

People are “Sexual citizens” when they know they have the right to say “yes” and the right to say “no” to sex. They also must recognize that everyone else has the same rights. Sexual citizenship isn’t something we are born with. It is developed through education and supported by communities. Drawing on research from the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation (SHIFT) at Columbia University and a bestselling book, as well as on her experience raising two sons in whom she has worked to instill a sense of their own sexual citizenship, Professor Jennifer S. Hirsch presents an entirely new way to understand sexual assault and a framework that emphasizes sexual assault’s social roots. Empathic, insightful, and far-ranging, she’ll transform your understanding of sexual assault and offer a roadmap for how to address it.

Beyond Fear: A Hopeful Vision for a World With Less Sexual Violence

The spaces people move through are essential to understanding both sex and sexual assault. Equality is a sexual assault prevention strategy. In this talk, Professor Jennifer S. Hirsch shares how access to space and control over who can and cannot enter that space is a critical way power works and why power is critical for understanding assault. She connects these ideas about space and power to questions parents struggle with about their children’s romantic partners, explaining how campus sexual violence is an everyone problem, not a campus problem, and pointing to what parents, communities, and campuses can do to build a safer future.