Article

The Agency Line: A Neoliberal Metric for Appraising Young Women’s Sexuality

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Abstract

Young women’s sexuality traditionally has been marked along a gendered moralist continuum of sexual activity, ranging from virtuous (virgins) to licentious (sluts). However, this one-dimensional model cannot easily accommodate substantive changes in the norms that influence girls’ sexualities. Contemporary scholarship generated across the Anglophone West includes many signs that such a shift has occurred, ushered in by the cultural and ideological suffusion of neoliberalism. I enlist interdisciplinary and international evidence of neoliberalism’s influence on constructions of girls’ sexuality to argue that in the U.S., girls are now judged on their adherence not only to gendered moralist norms, but also to a neoliberal script of sexual agency. In addition to reviewing conceptual and empirical grounds for this claim, I consider the multidimensional normative field created by the intersection of this Agency Line with the long-standing Virgin-Slut Continuum. The primacy of agency within neoliberal discourse seems to legitimize women’s sexual autonomy and its subjective nature may permit them some control over their position above the Agency Line. But upon critical inspection it becomes clear that young women remain confined to a prescribed normative space that divides them from one another, compels self-blame, and predicates their worth on cultural appraisals of their sexuality.

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... This is a worthy subject of study given the evidence for how heavily stereotypes influence one's self-perception, life experiences, and treatment by others (Jerald et al., 2017;Motro et al., 2021;Walker, 2005). Moreover, some scholars have noted substantive shifts in the sexual stereotypes of young women, noting the salience of apparent agency or empowerment in others' evaluations of young women's sexualities (Bay-Cheng, 2015;Cense, 2018;Gill, 2008;Harris & Dobson, 2015). To better understand prevailing gendered sexual stereotypes, we asked 175 U.S. adults to imagine and find online representative images of four different types of young women. ...
... Rather than sexually liberating, a neoliberal brand of agency has given rise to a "technology of sexiness" that women feel compelled to enact (Gill, 2008, p. 440; see also Evans & Riley, 2015). This was Bay-Cheng's (2015) central claim in her "Agency Line" proposal: young women are now evaluated according to whether they convincingly appear to be in control of their sexual lives. Bay-Cheng posited that the intersecting Agency Line and Virgin-Slut Continuum created a matrix of four sexual types: Agents, who are sexually active and in control; Virgins, who are sexually abstinent and in control; Sluts, who are sexually active and without control; and Losers, who are sexually abstinent and without control. ...
... In a 2018 paper, Bay-Cheng and colleagues looked for empirical evidence of the parallels between the SCM and the sexual stereotyping of young women. Using a sample of 186 U.S. adults recruited from MTurk, they provided participants with brief descriptions of the sexual experience and autonomy of four hypothetical young women, varying the permutations of experience and autonomy so that each woman represented one of the sexual types identified by Bay-Cheng (2015;i.e., Agents, Virgins, Sluts, Losers). Analyzing participants' ratings of personality attributes and open-ended descriptions of the four types, the researchers found that participants' perceptions of each woman aligned with the affective evaluation dimensions of the SCM. ...
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In 2015, Bay-Cheng proposed that sexual stereotypes of young women had evolved into four types: sexually abstinent and in-control Virgins; sexually experienced and in-control Agents; sexually experienced and out-of-control Sluts; and sexually abstinent and out-of-control Losers. Bay-Cheng also speculated that perceptions of the four types would align with the Stereotype Content Model’s (Fiske et al., 2002) dimensions of competence-incompetence and warmth-coolness. We tested this through a fine-grained visual content analysis of 833 images selected by 175 participants (aged 19–64) to represent the four sexual types. We coded each image’s composition (e.g., appearance, pose, attire, setting, race) for indicators of the depicted woman’s competence, incompetence, warmth, and coolness. Analyses indicated that images representing both Virgins and Agents included more visual markers of competence and fewer markers of incompetence than Sluts and Losers; however, Agents were distinct from Virgins in having significantly more markers of coolness. Images of Sluts had more visual markers of coolness than Virgins and Losers, but significantly fewer markers of warmth than Virgins and Agents. Images of Losers were distinct in displaying the least competence and the most incompetence compared to the other sexual types. In a separate analysis of race, Losers were also disproportionately represented by Asian Pacific Islander Desi American women whereas Black women and women of mixed or ambiguous race were disproportionately selected as Agents. Findings indicate that although sanctions against sexually active young women (i.e., Agents and Sluts) may be receding, young women who are involuntarily abstinent may be vulnerable to ridicule.
... This problem is compounded by the common and predetermined synonymizing of "agency" with "resistance" (Bay-Cheng, 2019; Mahmood, 2001). Further, these static and overly broad characterizations of emphasized femininity make it difficult to understand how women's sexual and emotional catering to men operates in environments such as hookup culture, wherein masculine-coded "casualness" and emotional detachment toward romantic interactions are widely expected of both men and women (Bay-Cheng, 2015;Wade, 2019). ...
... Our study answers calls for research on how women manage social impressions of their agency and power in interactions with men (Bay-Cheng, 2015). We also contribute to theories of doing and redoing gender by broadening conceptualizations of emphasized femininity both in terms of its flexibility to accommodate casualness and emotional detachment under certain circumstances, and also in terms of the agency that women enact from within its margins. ...
... Thus, our findings suggest that reacting to or complementing hegemonic masculinitywhile certainly a core part of emphasized femininity-is not the full story. We also show how particular forms of emotion work are key to women's efforts to manage how their sexual agency is perceived by others (Bay-Cheng, 2015). Greater attention to women's agency and creativity in navigating gender inequality can broaden understandings of femininities as a whole. ...
Article
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Emphasized femininity plays a key role in maintaining gender inequality. Yet, classic conceptualizations of emphasized femininity render it static and inflexible, and obscure women’s agency in reconfiguring their gender performances to fit different contexts. Based on interviews with college women in the United States, we demonstrate that when faced with hookup cultures’ expectations of casualness and emotional detachment, women move between two styles of emotion work to either “do” or “redo” emphasized femininity, stretching its boundaries without disturbing the gender hierarchy. In interactions with undesirable men, women do emphasized femininity by displaying emotional sensitivity, while in interactions with desirable men, women redo emphasized femininity by deploying “hegemonic casualness”—performances of emotional disinterest that provide women greater control over social impressions and allow them to construct empowered social images, but ultimately legitimate men’s privileges to pursue women. Our findings highlight women’s creativity and agency in navigating gender inequality and demonstrate an underrecognized flexibility within emphasized femininity. We discuss implications for gender theory, conversations around post-feminism, and campaigns that seek to promote gender equality in sexual relations on college campuses.
... Past sexualities research has argued that young women encounter gendered and heteronormative messages about their sexuality that influence their relationship to sexual desire and pleasure (Tolman 1996(Tolman , 2002Martin 1996;Armstrong et al. 2014). More recent research has also examined the impact of neoliberalism on discourses of female sexual empowerment (Bay- Cheng and Eliseo-Arras 2008;Bay-Cheng 2015a, b, 2019Bay-Cheng and Goodkind 2015;Mann 2016;Moran 2016;Rutherford 2018). It is within this context of competing and contradictory discourses about how women "should" relate to sexual pleasure and desire that this research is situated. ...
... Feminist scholars have argued that the influence of neoliberal ideology in U.S. culture broadly has also shifted the norms related to gender and sexual agency for women. For example, Laina Bay- Cheng (2015a) argues that neoliberalism-defined as the sociopolitical ideology that values personal responsibility and individual freedom of choice-has modified the virgin/slut binary. This research argues that young women in the U.S. are no longer solely characterized by whether they have had sex (bad) or not (good), but by their level of control in making those decisions. ...
... Participants described sexual responsiveness as a mutual give-and-take process within the context of continued negotiations of consent. The majority of the young women in this study saw sexual responsiveness as a relational accomplishment, rather than purely a self-interested pursuit more akin to neoliberal directives for sexual empowerment (Mann 2016;Bay-Cheng 2015a). Many of the women in this study also made note of their belief that sexual self-efficacy was important for sexual satisfaction because of how easily women's sexual desires can be overlooked. ...
Article
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Past research has argued that young women in the United States encounter gendered and heteronormative cultural messages that tend to paint men’s sexuality as active and women’s sexuality as passive. Recent research argues that neoliberal ideology—with its focus on individual choice and personal responsibility—has modified these traditional sexual discourses, including women’s entitlement to sexual subjectivity. This study centers the voices of a diverse group of young women who attend a regional, Hispanic-serving university in southern California, USA, in an analysis of their responses to an open-ended survey about two aspects of sexual subjectivity. Results show that the majority of the women in this study feel entitled to sexual responsiveness from their partner and feel comfortable asking for sexual stimulation. In contrast to past research where women from historically marginalized backgrounds in the United States were more likely to prioritize romantic relationships over sexual pleasure, the majority of the participants in this study did not dismiss their sexual needs. Participants describe sexual pleasure as a relational, rather than purely self-interested accomplishment that is important for their own well-being and for building healthy romantic relationships.
... 'Slut-shaming' refers to the practice of policing women based on their gender or sexual expression, identity or practice. Crucially, for slutshaming to occur there does not need to have been any actual sexual activityrevealing clothing (Bay-Cheng 2015), 'sexy' dance moves, having male friends, and an openness to discussing sexual matters can all be used as characteristics of a 'slut' regardless of whether the young woman in question is sexually active or not (Tanenbaum 2000). ...
... Similarly, behaviour that may result in slut-shaming can be either actual or alleged (Bay-Cheng 2015), meaning that there does not have to be any actual evidence of transgression, or even agreement that transgression has taken place. The allegation alone can be enough. ...
... While much has been written previously on the slut/virgin dichotomy, the fact that this continues to pervade young people's sexual cultures means that it remains a compelling subject (Tolman et al. 2015a, b;Bay-Cheng 2015;Aapola et al. 2005;Chambers et al. 2004). Yet, within a society which is widely described as sexualised, the slut/virgin (slag/drag) dichotomy becomes more complicated. ...
Article
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In contemporary Western society, young women are caught between the competing discourses of the slut/virgin dichotomy and the more recent imperatives of a sexualised culture. Drawing on data from qualitative interviews with young people, I identify a relationship between social class and susceptibility to sexual stigma. The practice of slut-shaming works locally to bolster the social capital of some girls at the expense of others, often those of perceived lower status. I find that middle class women are afforded sexual liberty, particularly if they display agentic practice. In contrast, working class women occupy more precarious positions of sexual respectability which depend on narratives of relationships and love to ameliorate the potential for slut-shaming.
... Individual mastery is seen as a neoliberal norm but is principally unattainable for many. The emotional burden it puts on present-day (sexual) actors, notably on girls and women, has therefore been criticized as too high [17,18]. Neoliberal ideology tends to deny structural oppression and inequality, leading Gill and Donaghue [5] to jeer that "the agent is the ideal subject of neoliberalism". ...
... Moreover, as Bay-Cheng [17] argued, the unjust casting of certain girls (and boys) as non-agentic, as lacking control and self-determination, or as "falling below the Agency Line" tends to follow common "discursive tracks that degrade and dehumanize particular groups on the basis of class, race, and other marginalized statuses" [17] (p. 286). ...
... Moreover, as Bay-Cheng [17] argued, the unjust casting of certain girls (and boys) as non-agentic, as lacking control and self-determination, or as "falling below the Agency Line" tends to follow common "discursive tracks that degrade and dehumanize particular groups on the basis of class, race, and other marginalized statuses" [17] (p. 286). ...
Article
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Debates on human agency, especially female and sexual agency, have permeated the social scientific literature and health educational practice for multiple decades now. This article provides a review of recent agency debates illustrating how criticisms of traditional conceptions of (sexual) agency have led to a notable diversification of the concept. A comprehensive, inclusive description of sexual agency is proposed, focusing on the navigation of goals and desires in the wider structural context, and acknowledging the many forms sexual agency may take. We argue there is no simple relation between sexual agency and sexual health. Next, we describe the implications of such an understanding of sexual agency for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and for sexual health and rights (SHR) programming more generally. We put forward validation of agentic variety, gender transformative approaches, meaningful youth participation, and multicomponent strategies as essential in building young peoples’ sexual agency and their role as agents of wider societal change. We also show that these essential conditions, wherever they have been studied, are far from being realized. With this review and connected recommendations, we hope to set the stage for ongoing, well-focused research and development in the area.
... Accordingly, in this paper, we focus on one group: women partnered with men, though others may look elsewhere. Women partnered with men are heterogeneous themselves, with differing relations to oppression and privilege that shape the gender norms they experience, and how those norms shape their lives (Armstrong et al., 2014;Bay-Cheng, 2015;Bettie, 2000;Schippers, 2007). Still, this is a starting point, and we argue that social norms related to gender are key to a rigorous, generative, and empirical approach to research and understanding about low sexual desire in women partnered with men. ...
... Though most people blend these traits, these social roles are prevalent and straying from them carries consequences (Duckitt, 1994;Eagly, 1987;Eagly & Wood, 1999;Hyde, 2005Hyde, , 2006. Policed at individual and structural levels, penalties for breaking gender norms can include stigma, derogatory labeling as "slut" or "prude," relationship dissolution, and much more (Bay-Cheng, 2015;Butler, 2011;Cooke, 2006;Crawford & Popp, 2003;Fahs, 2011;Farvid et al., 2016;Meyer, 2003;Schilt & Westbrook, 2009;West & Zimmerman, 1987;Wood & Eagly, 2012). Despite these social pushes and pulls, these roles are widely seen as reflecting natural divisions of existence and labor, and this assumption of naturality is a hallmark of heteronormativity. ...
... According toBay-Cheng (2015), neoliberalism is most commonly associated with macroeconomic and social policies that open markets, deregulate industry, and abandon social welfare. But, it has come to permeate popular culture and discourse by championing tropes of personal empowerment that position women as fully responsible for achieving-often through purchasable means-their own sexual ideals (which are in actuality generally shaped by society).3 ...
Article
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Low sexual desire in women partnered with men is typically presumed to be a problem—one that exists in women and encourages a research agenda on causation and treatment targeting women. In this paper, we present a distinct way forward for research on low sexual desire in women partnered with men that attends to a more structural explanation: heteronormativity. A heteronormative worldview assumes that relationships and structures are heterosexual, gender (usually conflated with sex) is binary and complementary, and gender roles fit within narrow bounds including nurturant labor for women. We propose the heteronormativity theory of low sexual desire in women partnered with men, arguing that heteronormative gender inequities are contributing factors. We outline four hypotheses and their predictions related to: inequitable divisions of household labor, blurring of partner and mother roles, objectification of women, and gender norms surrounding sexual initiation. We discuss some mechanisms—social, physiological, and otherwise—for the heteronormativity theory, especially related to stress, objectification, and nurturance. We close by noting some limitations of our paper and the ways that the heteronormativity theory of low sexual desire in women partnered with men provides a rigorous, generative, and empirical way forward.
... Moreover, as previous qualitative work found that the cultural context influences SA in emerging adult women in complex ways (L opez- Alvarado et al., 2020), one of the explanations is that the SDS influences individuals to adhere to social expectations about sexuality . Indeed, gender norms are undoubtedly important for less liberal societies as these prescribe differences in the way individuals interact with each other about sexuality (Bay-Cheng, 2015;. Thus, based on the evidence that SA is influenced by gender norms, we hypothesized that in the specific context of Cuenca (Ecuador) the association between SA and SDS is moderated by gender (H2). ...
... While it was hypothesized that strong adherence to the SDS leads to lower SA in women and higher SA in men, this hypothesis was only confirmed in women. These results are in line with earlier accounts suggesting that traditional cultural scriptsespecially those related to sexual interactionsseem to have a greater impact on women (Bay-Cheng, 2015;. However, if wewithout using specific hypothesescompare the scores of SA in our sample, women reported higher levels of SA than men. ...
... A possible explanation for this gender difference in levels of SA could be that women's reactions to the measures on SA were influenced by specific gender discourses aiming to empower women in Cuenca that were 'trending' when the study was performed. Alternatively, it could be that nowadays women are immersed in two opposite discourses when it comes to their SA (Bay-Cheng, 2015). ...
Article
Objective: Sexual assertiveness (SA), i.e., the ability to communicate thoughts and desires that may be translated into satisfying sexual activity within an intimate relationship, is important for safe and satisfying sexual behavior. In an attempt to unravel which cultural, relational, and individual variables are related to the development of SA in emerging adults, an exploratory study was conducted in Cuenca, Ecuador. Methods: Five hundred and thirty-eight participants completed scales that measured their levels of SA, endorsement of the sexual double standard, relationship satisfaction, and mental well-being. Results: This study showed a negative effect of the sexual double standard on SA in both men and women and this effect was slightly tempered by the level of education. Women reported higher levels of SA than men. In women, SA was associated with general mental well-being and relationship satisfaction; but not in men. For both women and men, no association was found with relationship status or duration. Conclusions: These findings corroborate evidence highlighting the importance of SA for healthy sexual relationships and emphasize the importance of (sex) education for SA for lower educated women and men. The results are discussed in relation to findings on SA in other contexts.
... Bay-Cheng and Eliseo-Arras (2008) traced young women's self-blame for sexual coercion and violence back to neoliberal injunctions to personal responsibility and the dichotomization of agency and victimization. Reflecting critically on claims of young women's sexual empowerment, Bay-Cheng (2015) argued that young women are increasingly compelled to appease not only traditional norms (e.g., to please men) but also emergent neoliberal ones (e.g., to present as in control and agentic). She imagined the intersection of gendered and neoliberal evaluative metrics as forming a normative matrix prescribing young women's outward performances of sexuality. ...
... As we noted in the literature review, the performative demands on men may focus predominantly on physiological performance (Gurevich et al., 2017), including their ability to "give" women orgasms (Chadwick & van Anders, 2017). Sexual skill is an important metric for women, too (Farvid & Braun, 2006;Frith, 2013), but their sexual self-monitoring may also entail working to ensure that others see them as sexually agentic and in control (i.e., ideal neoliberal actors) rather than as hapless victims (Bay-Cheng, 2015). Another critical limitation of the present study-and many regarding sexuality and neoliberal ideology-is our inability to consider intersections among gender, sexuality, and diverse other social identities. ...
Article
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Background Neoliberal ideology has permeated US culture, creating a climate that values individual choice and self-interest over collective welfare. This has extended into the domain of sexuality and intimate relationships in a discourse that encourages people to put their own interest first sexually, with little thought of their partner’s.Methods This project analyzed survey data from 249 US young adults collected via MTurk in 2015 to explore relations between neoliberal ideology and sexual attitudes while controlling for gender norm conformity.ResultsNeoliberal beliefs seemed beneficial in that they were predictive of self-affirming sexual attitudes. Less favorably, stronger neoliberal beliefs were also associated with endorsing a sexual double standard that disadvantages women, and with feeling more sensitive to the judgments of others.Conclusions We argue that the neoliberal call to prioritize oneself may come at a price, to others and oneself.
... The ten-policy package was agreed upon by Washington-based institutions such as the World Bank, IMF and the US treasury department (see Williamson, 2009). the form of a moralistic stricture, for example, understanding all the eventualities people face in life as consequences of their own actions/choices (Bay-Cheng, 2015). Not only does this philosophy decontextualize the human condition, many of the existing dogmas/morals and power relations such as gendered power relations (for example, the gendered division of labour, the sexual double standard and transphobia), racial discrimination, class and ableism not only continue but in many cases get further entrenched, under neoliberalism (Cornwall, Gideon & Wilson, 2008;Bay-Cheng, 2015). ...
... the form of a moralistic stricture, for example, understanding all the eventualities people face in life as consequences of their own actions/choices (Bay-Cheng, 2015). Not only does this philosophy decontextualize the human condition, many of the existing dogmas/morals and power relations such as gendered power relations (for example, the gendered division of labour, the sexual double standard and transphobia), racial discrimination, class and ableism not only continue but in many cases get further entrenched, under neoliberalism (Cornwall, Gideon & Wilson, 2008;Bay-Cheng, 2015). ...
Thesis
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In this thesis, I employ a feminist poststructuralist approach to study the perspectives and experiences of young migrant women living in a hostel in Chennai as they navigate competing discourses on womanhood in neoliberal India. Based on 10 months of ethnographic fieldwork done across two stages, this thesis delves on the experiences of young women, particularly around four themes of contemporary significance, namely safety and street harassment; dowry; relationships, sex and marriage; and practices and ideals of beauty. Rather than positioning women with respect to binaristic categories such as traditional vs modern this thesis strives to situate women within the complexities and contradictions of their daily lives.
... All women characters in our corpus further the sociosexual script of women as sexual gatekeepers, and therefore, as responsible for any deviation from sociosexual norms (e.g., being too sexual or not sexual enough are both socially punished, and the stigma is greater when women do not show sexual agency or selfcontrol; Bay-Cheng, 2015;Comunello, Parisi, and Ieracitano, 2020;Ringrose, 2011;Wiederman, 2005). Gender differences in sexual inexperience and virginity loss trajectories reflect both Carpenter's research (Carpenter, 2002(Carpenter, , 2009(Carpenter, , 2010, in which women were more likely to describe themselves as lacking agency in their experiences of virginity loss, and sexual scripts prescribing women to "save themselves" sexually (Carpenter, 2010, p. 160). ...
... Her agency is seen as the deliberate reason why she has not yet had sex, which positions her as needing to defend that choice. As women's sexual agency is increasingly valued or even prescribed in society (as a form of self-control, see Bay-Cheng, 2015), the viewer becomes empathetic to Kala's sexual refusal and choice to wait until she feels ready to have sex. While valuing this female character's sexual agency, Sense8's story development (similarly to Fifty Shades of Grey's) nonetheless seems to reinforce gender stereotypes, as Kala chooses to engage in sexual activity with the most hegemonic male character (Wolfgang), at least according to Western standards: an enterprising, dominant, and attractive man represented as one of the most sexually active characters in the series; a man who is "capable of initiating her to sex". ...
Article
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Despite sexual imperatives and social norms marginalizing non-sexualities – referred to as compulsory sexuality –, representations of sexually inexperienced emerging adults (SIEA) in works of fiction have been overlooked. The goal of this research was to document media representations of SIEA in popular fictional television series and movies in a contemporary North American context. We conducted in-depth analyses of fictional television series and movies that portrayed at least one lead or secondary SIEA character. Eleven characters were analyzed through a conceptual framework based on social clock, script, and stigma theories. A hybrid qualitative analysis combining tenets of dialectical team-coding, textual, narrative, and critical discourse was conducted. First, each character was assessed regarding the virginity script it best depicted. Three characters (Anastasia, 50 Shades of Grey; April, Grey’s Anatomy; Jane, Jane the Virgin) fit the gift script, five characters (Shoshanna, Girls; Charlene, F**ked Up; Brian, The Young Kieslowski; Jules, L’heure bleue; Peter, The Late Bloomer) best belonged to the stigma script, and three characters (Kala, Sense8; Chiron, Moonlight; Sam, Atypical) exemplified the process script. However, there was some script overlap in many of these representations, which were found to be insufficient to adequately capture the complexity of each characters’ situation with regards to their sexual inexperience. Second, we developed a matrix in which each character was positioned on four axes: (1) intentionality of sexual inexperience, (2) identity, (3) social skills, and (4) social integration. Third, stigma manifestations of SIEA characters were found at the individual, interpersonal, and structural levels. Gender differences were salient in our corpus: male characters’ inexperience was depicted as a by-product of extrinsic or uncontrollable factors (e.g., medical condition), whereas female characters were held responsible for their inexperience and asked to “justify” it. In fact, gender was the primary characteristic through which characters were represented, and superseded the place given to sexual inexperience in the narratives.
... Additionally, instead of being portrayed primarily as an object to please men, within the new forms of mediated culture (Gill focussed on advertising in particular), women were being encouraged to take up the role of autonomous, desiring and empowered sexual subjects (Gill, 2008). As alluded to by the girls in our workshops, however, this invitation can be felt as an obligation, with pressure on women to produce, perform and display a kind of "always 'up for it'" (Gill, 2008, p. 41) and "out there" sexuality (Powell, 2010, p. 2; see also Bay-Cheng, 2015). ...
... For example, one girl noted, "There is this whole you have to keep yourself pure thing that is still going around even though it's like ancient mentality, you know like a virgin until marriage or whatever" (Kathy, G1-W2). However, in complicating this narrative, some of the girls' talk resonated with Bay-Cheng's (2015) argument about the shifting ways in which women's sexuality is policed within a neoliberal context. Rather than being based upon transgressions of a traditional ideal of feminine sexual moral purity, Bay-Cheng (2015, p. 282) suggested slut-shaming has come to be used against women who are judged to lack agency and be "sexually out of control". ...
Article
Drawing on principles of participatory action research, we conducted workshop interviews with New Zealand secondary school girls about the dynamics of sexting between girls and boys. We worked with seven small groups of girls (28 in total) aged 16 and 17 (each participating in a series of three workshops). Talk about the pressures associated with sexting was a key theme in the discussions. Girls identified pressures both to send nudes and to not send nudes. They described these pressures as operating on interpersonal as well as wider sociocultural levels, marked by the complicated intersection of traditional discourses of heterosexuality with permissive and postfeminist discourses of empowered female sexuality. The dynamic participatory methodology we used allowed us to move beyond simply capturing a snapshot of the gendered dynamics of pressure. It provided a space in which girls also shared reflexive critical observations of the gendered inequalities associated with this practice.
... Par exemple, pour Rosalind Gill (2008), l'agentivité est construite à travers la discipline et la régulation du corps pour répondre au système hétéronormatif et patriarcal. Bay-Cheng (2015) propose aussi de voir le concept d'agentivité sexuelle comme une nouvelle forme d'injonction contrôlant la sexualité des jeunes filles. Au contrôle social qu'exerce le continuum de la vierge et de la putain sur la sexualité des filles s'ajoute celui de la démonstration obligatoire de l'agentivité sexuelle. ...
Article
In the early days of the commercialization of hardcore pornography, heterosexual pornography portrays a generally unfaked sexuality in which women’s pleasure is subordinated. In reaction to this production, feminists have created a pornography that foregrounds the sexuality of cis women or trans people (lesbians, bisexuals, fluids, pansexuals, heterosexuals or queer). We have analyzed a corpus of 38 feminist pornographic films in order to identify sexual scripts. The analysis focuses on the question of women’s sexual agency, operationalized in three markers: the expression of consent, sexual preferences and the transformation of the traditional heterosexual script. The analysis of the selected films allowed us to confirm the presence of representations of women’s sexual agency.
... Hence, we must look beyond individuals' experiences to understand the constructs of sexual agency and empowerment (Bay- Cheng, 2015;Gavey, 2012). Feminists have explained that the ethic of consent is insufficient in addressing the scope of bad sex. ...
Article
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In gender and sexuality studies, heterosexual sex has often been portrayed in terms of inequality and injustice; however, there has been scant discussion of what social conditions may cultivate a democratic and egalitarian culture that sustains sexual autonomy. Developed from Nussbaum’s capabilities approach, I propose the erotic capabilities approach to assess and promote entitlement to erotic choices and erotic freedoms in everyday practice. I argue that erotic capabilities should consist of the following: (1) freedom from sexual coercion and deprivation; (2) democratized sexual knowledge; (3) sexual health options; (4) inclusive space for diversified erotic expressions; (5) erotic affiliation and negotiation; and (6) diversified erotic aspirations, fulfilments and experimentations. Drawing on a 29-month ethnography of a sex party club in Hong Kong, I demonstrate how the erotic capabilities approach can be used in a meso-level analysis to evaluate a sexual space or community which, while situated in the overarching patriarchal ideology, may or may not offer a reflexive space for its participants to define their erotic selves. As this study formulates sexuality as a vehicle of empowerment that can and should be cultivated and actualized, it illuminates the possibility to imagine and create agentic and pleasurable opportunities for people in different social locations under the patriarchy we still live in.
... In a recent scholarly dialogue about sexual empowerment, researchers have argued for the need to acknowledge adolescent girls' and young women's subjective experiences and perceptions in theory and research on women's sexuality (Lamb & Peterson, 2012;Peterson, 2010). At the same time, however, other scholars have argued that contemporary young women in the United States are exposed to neoliberal messages about sexual agency that constrain women's sexual expression through a guise of personal choice and sexual freedom (Bay-Cheng, 2015;Tolman, Anderson, & Belmonte, 2015). A useful line of future inquiry would be to interview young women who post sexualized content on their social media profiles about their motives for these choices (see Ringrose, 2011 for similar research on adolescent girls in the United Kingdom) and their thoughts on the social meaning of these portrayals. ...
Article
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Using an experimental methodology, the present study assessed college men’s perceptions of a female peer who presented herself on Facebook in either a sexualized or nonsexualized manner. One hundred and seventeen college men viewed a Facebook profile with either a sexualized profile photo or a nonsexualized profile photo of a young woman and then evaluated the profile owner. They also reported on their dating attitudes. Results indicated that the sexualized profile owner was considered less physically attractive, less socially appealing, and less competent to complete tasks. Interest in dating and casual sex with the profile owner as well as general dating attitudes were largely not impacted by the type of profile photo. Findings suggest that using a sexualized profile photo on Facebook comes with some relational costs for young women. Strategies for educating young people about new media use and sexualization are discussed.
... Trata-se de "poder fazer as coisas que os meninos fazem" (Sofia, 12 anos). O reconhecimento das desigualdades de gênero que vivenciavam em seu cotidiano alinhavava um sistema de classificação alternativo manifesto no empenho de estabelecer distinção e reconhecimento social não por meio de caracterizações de meninas como "boas" ou "más", mas entre "pessoas capazes" de encarnar (ou não) símbolos e capacidades socialmente valorizados como o poder, atividade, força etc. 7 Em contraste com as meninas "atiradas" -que enfatizavam o desenvolvimento de uma conduta sexualmente ativa (HARRIS, 2004;BAY-CHENG, 2015) -, as "evoluídas" focalizavam as qualidades e valores sociais que pronunciavam apresentar. Adjetivos como "coragem", "atitude", "melhor", "superior", "evolução" são fundantes à afirmação social desse "novo tipo de menina" mais concatenada com uma emergente cultura de empoderamento. ...
Article
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This study analyzes the construction of gender identity among adolescent girls considering its performative dimension. The ethnographic research was conducted at a public middle school in Salvador, Brazil. The discursive construction of differences, similarities and inequalities among categories of girl is one of the ways gender is (re)constructed and negotiated in daily interactions. Within the context of the moral regulation exercised by peers, the article presents how each subject position assimilates, contests and resignifies behaviors and characteristics socially considered to be feminine and masculine. In a continuum of conformities and subversions, girls considered to be “normal”, “forward” or “evolved” exhibit traces of cultural permanence and change, revealing the markedly contradictory heterogeneity of the constitution of gender identities.
... Post-feminism thus positions women as 'active, assertive, and sexually desiring', yet when girls and younger women embody these sensibilities, they are considered victimised or deviant (Dobson 2015, 24;Ringrose and Barajas 2011). Bay-Cheng (2015) argues that 'agency' has replaced the 'virgin-whore' dichotomy as the metric by which girls' and women's sexuality is judged. Yet Tolman, Anderson, and Belmonte (2015) point out that girls still lack unencumbered access to a narrative of legitimate sexual agency bar abstinence, despite being exposed to the same cultural discourses as all women. ...
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This paper presents an examination of ‘frexting’ (‘friend’ + ‘sexting’), which is defined as the exchange of personally-produced intimate images among friends. It draws upon accounts of frexting shared by teenage girls during a 2016 study investigating sexting conducted in Surrey, England. Frexting is theorised as a form of homosociality among girls and explores the extent to which and how it reflects, reproduces and subverts the dominant gendered social order within youth digital intimacies. The analysis suggests that while frexting involves intimate self-representation away from the male gaze, it reflects and reinforces a post-feminist cultural landscape characterised by (self-)scrutiny and regulation of girls’ bodies and bodily self-representations. Frexting worked to demonstrate an authentic, relaxed, carefree and confident but, importantly, non-sexual sensibility, with implications for who and what constitutes legible participation. While subverting normative interpretations of girls’ bodies as inherently, and problematically, sexual, frexting did not fundamentally trouble the post-feminist cultural landscape within which the girls were operating. The paper concludes by arguing that for frexting to become a truly emancipatory endeavour, it is necessary to dismantle the socio-cultural context that restricts and regulates girls’ abilities to relate to and represent their bodies.
... What is authentic in diverse subjectivities is confounded with what is marketable about them. Much like the women's empowerment movement, authentic resistance is obscured when the criteria for authentic expression becomes fashionable and profitable (Bay-Cheng, 2015;Rutherford, 2018). Authenticity is then sold as an identity with specified parameters that persuade individuals to opt-in via conformity to the new standards-precisely an existentially inauthentic existence. ...
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In this article, I reassess two central existential constructs at their intersection with neoliberalism and the self-help industry. Freedom and authenticity, as theorized primarily in the Sartrean tradition, have been commodified by the neoliberal self-help industry into uncritical and universalizing concepts. As these contemporary caricatures of freedom and authenticity become popular, their effects on subjectivity can be problematic. I conduct a reassessment of these constructs to identify where power relations, universality, and misinterpretations not only propagate errors that become embodied in subjectivity but also demarcate inclusionary and exclusionary criteria for diverse subjectivities to access freedom and authenticity.
... She says, I said no, meaning do what you like, Kenny Knight but don't ask (8) This confusion seems to be explicitly tied to a cultural presumption that coercion exists within seduction. While girls are often seen as the gatekeepers of sexual behavior, boys and men are often depicted as the drivers of the seduction, attempting to persuade the girl to engage in some activity (Bay-Cheng: 2015). Although they do not state it explicitly, many of the Lolita iterations seem to ask the question of how we might find the ethical line between persuasion and coercion for the girl. ...
... By 'putting themselves at risk' in such ways, young people are seen to merit protective responses characterised by control and discipline, such as deprivation of preference, goods, privacy and liberty (Horning, 2012). The prevalence of normative developmental conceptualisations of childhood in many disciplinary trainings can mean professionals do not feel particularly conflicted about over-riding young people's preferences, privacy and liberty in order to safeguard them (Bay-Cheng, 2015). A climate of 'moral panic' (Cree et al., 2014) reinforces this, producing anxious practitioners who struggle to distinguish risky and dangerous situations from normative adolescent sexual and relational experimentation. ...
Article
Analysis of data from a two-year evaluation of the piloting of a child-centred framework for addressing child sexual exploitation (CSE) in England revealed an intrinsic practice dilemma, whereby many practitioners experienced profound ontological, ethical, emotional and intellectual dilemmas in reconciling young people’s rights to voice, privacy and autonomy with their rights to safety, guidance and protection. ‘No-win’ scenarios left practitioners in a ‘double-bind’, whereby acting protectively might alienate a young person, paradoxically encouraging them to engage in further risky behaviours. An individual commitment to child-centred and participatory approaches, relational practice and reflective use of self was found to support professionals in exploring this tension with young people themselves, involving them as partners in reducing the risk of exploitation. However, practitioners will struggle to achieve this without manageable workloads, good supervision and organisational support for the emotional content of the work. Transformational learning is required across the disciplinary practice systems to achieve a more integrated practice of ‘both/and’ thinking and feeling. The tensions between protection and participation can then be surfaced in a way that is constructive rather than divisive.
... identities. It may be that in the Anglo-Western neo-liberal social context, discourses of personal responsibility and agency have overtaken an overt reliance on powerful societal structures (Bay-Cheng, 2015). For sexual identities, this may mean that as society moves away from a biological orientation narrative of sexuality, we -as citizens -are becoming less tethered to the idea of fitting into few broad categories of sexual identity Galupo et al., 2016). ...
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Bisexuality is becoming increasingly visible as the diversity of sexual identities is becoming more recognised in mainstream Anglo-Western societies. At the same time, rigid categorisations that views sexual identity as a heterosexual-homosexual binary remains entrenched in our social and academic contexts. As a result, bisexual people face suppression and erasure of their sexual identity. Further, recent movements within queer spaces have led to a shift in the languaging around bisexuality and attraction to multiple genders; bisexuality being only one identity under the plurisexual umbrella. However, little research has explored bisexuality alongside new plurisexual identities and the lives of people who identify with them. This thesis identifies large gaps in psychological literature surrounding the intersecting identities of plurisexual women and examines how discourses of sexual identity – and more specifically bisexuality and plurisexuality – shape plurisexual women’s social and intimate lives, and constructions of their sexual identity. Using a social constructionist epistemology, and underpinned by intersectionality theory and critical feminism, an exploratory mixed-method approach was taken. Data were collected from a community-based sample through interviews (n = 20) and a quantitative online survey (n = 994) with women who identified as attracted to multiple genders. This thesis uses descriptive statistics and a critical thematic analysis to critically explore the ways plurisexual women talk about their experiences and identities related to their plurisexuality and how this is informed by, or contravenes, dominant discourses around plurisexuality. The data indicated that bisexuality and other plurisexualities are fraught and contradictory. Plurisexual women experienced their sexual identities as spaces for political action and as sites for both community and empowerment, and alienation and marginalisation. Dominant and counter discourses were drawn on by plurisexual women to understand their sexual identities. These findings are placed in the context of how new knowledges can lead to changes in how plurisexuality is experienced, to better deconstruct the marginalisation of plurisexual women.
... Determining to what extent women exercise their own agency in transactional sexual dynamics is an ongoing endeavour within feminist studies (Gavey, 1992;Hofmann, 2010;Bay-Cheng, 2015). Binary visions on agency (whether the individual is able to act totally out of "free will" or completely coerced) need to be left aside to embrace the more nuanced definition of agency as the "socioculturally mediated capacity to act" (Ahearn, 2001, p. 112 ). ...
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“Sugar dating” is the practice of establishing a “mutually beneficial relationship” between an older, affluent male – Sugar Daddy – and a younger, financially disempowered female – Sugar Baby. Although the figure of the “Sugar Daddy” has become commonplace in popular culture, this area of study remains largely unexplored, especially in the UK. Among the numerous websites that have mushroomed in the last decades in this country, Seeking.com stands out not only for providing an online meet-up place for Sugar Daddies and Babies, but also for serving as the matrix where the “sugar” discourse is constructed. The site functions as a discursive producer of the subject, inasmuch as Sugar Babies and Daddies are subjected and subjugated through a process of assujettissement by this kind of discursive power. Interviews conducted with four women who had recently acted as Sugar Babies showed how this discourse permeates the subjects and acts as a “technology of coercion” that works to perpetuate hegemonic notions of heterosexuality and undermines the participants” agency to refuse to engage in sexual intercourse, effectively “blurring the lines” of sexual consent.
... One major aspect constructing sexual subjectivity is sexual agency, conceptualized through the grammar of empowerment. Sexual agency is considered a feminist term in that it is a neoliberal enactment of sexiness beyond traditional binaries such as slut/virgin (Bay-cheng 2012(Bay-cheng , 2015. ...
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How do lesbian and bisexual, cisgender and transgender (LBT) women talk about sex? This paper looks at constructions of sexual discourse and the production of sexual subjectivity from the perspective of LBT women in the Israeli periphery, asking how they construct their lives as sexual subjects. Applying Sara Ahmed’s ‘orientations’ concept, we argue that the periphery serves as an LGBTphobic context that impacts sexual discourses and constructs LBT sexual subjectivities. We conceptualize LBT women’s sexual subjectivity as distinct and anchored in spatiality, and frame it as oriented sexual subjectivity. This particular subjectivity reveals an intertwined movement between silence and discourse, urban and rural, oriented to the space inhabited by LBT women. Oriented sexual subjectivity is constructed particularly through an alignment of LBT women’s discourse on sex and sexual practices with the heteronormative spaces in which they live. Based on 61 interviews with LBT women in the Israeli periphery, we show how sex is discussed only in relation to violent experiences or while talking about urban experiences in Tel Aviv. This discursive framework reveals how in the periphery, like a palimpsest, sex is cartographically hidden in deep layers of meaning rather than discussed in the open, and how LBT sexual subjectivity is oriented.
... At the same time, women tend to receive stigma for expressing or pursuing their sexual desires [25]. Past research on female sexual development reveals that sexually active girls always are considered as "bad girl" or "sluts", while sexually non-active girls are thought as "good girls" or "virgins" [37,38]. The social changes of China, such as the urbanization and migration, which brought the income growth of citizens and the popularity of consumer culture, create conditions for materializing the female [39]. ...
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Background Studies on very young adolescents’ romantic and sexual experiences would help inform the context in which early sex arises. However, such studies are scant in China due to sparse data and cultural issues. Method This study used the GEAS baseline data conducted among1776 adolescents in Shanghai. Multi-group latent class analysis was used to explore adolescents’ romantic and sexual experiences patterns and subgroups. Multi-nominal logistic regression was performed to identify the factors distinguishing different subgroups subsequently. Results There were gender differences in the lifetime prevalence for very young adolescents’ romantic and sexual-related behaviors. The Multi-group latent class analysis indicated that the participants could be classified into three classes: general group , early romance group , and sex exploratory group . Multi-nominal logistic regression showed youth in the early romance group were more likely to had friends of both gender, ever had a romantic relationship, and had more autonomy in deciding where to go than th e general group ; while male respondents in the sex exploratory group were older, ever had a romantic relationship, believed that boys should be more sexually active and more proactive than girls, had more autonomy on deciding where to go, and perceived less school connection and neighborhood cohesion. Female respondents in the sex exploratory group were older and less empowered in decision-making than the general group . Conclusions The result provides a picture of romantic and sexual behavior patterns among both gender of very young adolescents in China. Current sex education needs not only to be culturally appropriate but also to address the harm of gender inequality and stereotypes, as well as to provide accessible and supportive services to help young adolescents personalize their received information and strengthen their skills in communication, decision making, and critical thinking.
... For instance, white and African American gays and lesbians may understand their sexuality differently, using different kinds of language and labels, and form different kinds of relationships with the LGBTQ community (Ben Hagai et al., 2020). Furthermore, under neoliberal policies that state that there is "no society only 41 individuals" and frame individuals as profit maximizing entrepreneurs, choice making becomes the most important capacity of people (Bay-Cheng et al., 2015;. At the same time, the increase in class inequalities under neoliberalism is related to the various ways in which actors of different socio-economic classes experience their sexual agency. ...
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In this chapter on sexuality, we examine three foundational postulations from queer theory. The first postulation is that the historical construction of sexuality, and same-sex desire in particular, tends to be based on binary thinking that positions same-sex desire as either universal (a “universalizing” view of same-sex sexuality) or as a disposition common to a minority of the population (a “minoritizing” view of same-sex sexuality). In contrast, queer theory moves away from a binary view of sexuality to conceptualize it as fluid. The second postulation is that people’s sexuality is shaped by interlocking forms of oppression such as colonialism, racism, sexism, and class oppression. The intersections of interlocking forms of oppression configure sexual identities and desires in unique ways. The third postulation is the rejection of a hierarchy of sexual practices and a focus on the proliferation of sexual categories to disrupt that hierarchy. We juxtapose these three key ideas with a review of critical psychology research, showing how psychological studies moved from a universalizing to a minoritizing view of same-sex desire, with a recent turn back towards the universalizing approach. We describe psychological contributions on the manner in which LGBTQ identities are different among people of color compared to white people as well as research that examines the influence of neoliberal ideology on sexual agency. We explore recent psychological studies related to BDSM and kink, polyamory, and asexuality. Assessing the convergence and divergence between psychology and queer thought leads us to critique the notion that a proliferation of sexual identities is necessarily libratory; instead, we argue for a more intersectional approach to sexual identities.
... Discourses promoting pleasure (Allen, 2012;Fine, 1988;Lamb, 2010), female sexual embodiment and agency (Bay-Cheng, 2015;Renold & Ringrose, 2011), sexual and gender diversity (Formby, 2011;Jones et al., 2016), and addressing gender inequity (Rogow & Haberland, 2005) have been illustrated within feminist scholarship as being persistently absent from sex education frameworks. These missing discourses have frequently been situated parallel to the active promotion and normalization of compulsory heteronormativity (Butler, 1990;Kendall, 2013), policing of a male/female gender binary and stringent gender norms (Sundaram & Sauntson, 2016), and moral panics regarding the sexualization of girlhood and female sexuality. ...
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IntroductionDue to conflicts of national identity and religion, human rights legislation has been integral to Northern Ireland’s post-war journey. As a result of this, the post-conflict generation of girls, female adolescents, and non-heterosexual, queer-identifying peoples have more rights, opportunities, and recognition in educational policy than generations prior. However, government reports show issues within the country’s Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curricula, including that only one in five Northern Irish schools have touched upon lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) topics.Methods This paper presents the first feminist post-structuralist analysis focusing on gender and sexual inequalities within the current national policy framework (as of September 2021) informing school-based RSE. Applying feminist critical discourse and content analysis to examine official government circulars, legislative text, and RSE policy guidance distributed to schools, feminist lenses are drawn on to examine four main sets of issues: bodies, sexual agency and pleasure, the inclusion of gender and sexual diversity, and heteronormativity.ResultsFindings show that despite human rights legislation and having statutory RSE with legislated content, central discourses within the national RSE policy framework impose a story of female victimization, problematize binary constructions of gender, participate in the erasure of non-binary identifying persons, and prioritize compulsory heteronormativity.Conclusions Until inclusive, non-binary language and standardized content is prescribed within the minimum content found in legislation and deemed statutory by the Department of Education, young people will not receive uniform RSE, undermining the importance of gender and sexual inclusivity and diversity.Policy ImplicationsDiscourses illuminated within this paper may be drawn on by international policy actors and researchers to elucidate taken-for-granted or problematic language found within their own policies so that the rights of marginalized bodies and sexual identities are instilled and those who have been victimized may find empowerment.
... Our results may also be interpreted within the framework of cultural norms that influence women's sexuality. In general terms, Bay-Cheng's line of research on the dynamics of sexual scripts suggests that, despite witnessing signs of progress, social evaluations of young women's worth are driven by cultural categorizations of their sexuality (e.g., abstinent or active), which still remains determined by traditionally gendered norms (Bay-Cheng, 2015;Bay-Cheng et al., 2018). Women who engage in sexual intercourses tend to be seen as promiscuous, less competent, and less emotionally stable than men (Kreager et al., 2009). ...
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Background: Sociosexuality explains whether people hold an (un)restricted orientation toward casual sex, and its effects on well-being are inconclusive. This study investigates how specifically the facets of sociosexuality relate to three components of well-being in men and women. Methods: Self-report measures of sociosexuality and well-being were assessed in 556 Polish adults. Results: Multi-group confirmatory factor analysis revealed differences in sociosexual attitudes and desire across gender. Structural equation models showed significant results only for men-emotional and psychological well-being were positively predicted by sociosexual behavior and negatively predicted by desire. Conclusions: Sociosexuality predicted well-being differently across gender.
Article
Public discussion of sexual victimization has intensified within the US context and globally. One noteworthy feature of recent public discourse in the US is that it calls for a broadening of responsibility with respect to both the parties involved and the forms of sexual victimization for which people are held to account. Yet often the narratives about responsibility and practices of responsibility-taking that dominate in this discussion remain individualizing and penalizing. This essay takes stock of the myriad failures of responsibility for sexual injustices in these existing practices and narratives. The first section outlines four philosophical objections to common ways of thinking about responsibility. The second section extends these objections by analyzing the dominant neoliberal narrative framework for responsibility so as then to critique how responsibility is thought about and practiced in relation to sexuality. Finally, given the failures of these narratives and practices, the third section elaborates an alternative that can redress them: an intersectional feminist account of responsibility for sexual injustices that is nonpunitive and takes responsibility to be an intentional practice of altering social relations.
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Women experience gender discrimination in numerous important life domains, which can harm psychological well-being. Benefit-finding—identifying the positive implications of having overcome a negative experience—has been theorized as a coping strategy to improve well-being. We experimentally tested whether prompting women, recruited online, to consider the implications of their past experiences of discrimination for themselves in the present—and the benefit-finding that follows—can improve well-being. U.S women (n = 409) were asked to consider a past experience of sexism in three data collections (Studies 1a, 1b, 1c). In each collection, participants were randomly assigned to a benefit-finding condition or a control condition. Those participants in to the benefit-finding condition were asked to write about the implications or lessons of their experience for the present whereas those women randomly assigned to the control condition did not. A meta-analysis based on the three data collections revealed that participants in the benefit-finding condition reported greater well-being than those in the control, which was a moderately strong effect. In a third collection (Study 1c), we included an additional control condition in which participants wrote about known facts of gender discrimination. We also included measures of sexism perceptions and willingness to engage in collective action. Participants who reflected upon the implications of their past experiences of sexism reported the highest intentions to engage in collective action to confront future sexism (relative to both control conditions). For women coping with discrimination, this intervention can help alleviate the harmful consequences of discrimination and motivate support to fight gender inequality.
Article
This article characterizes norms of sexual morality in the sex toy market, revealing a core contradiction in the morality of gendered heterosexuality. Taking a novel approach to the study of the sex industry, the study’s data focus on producers rather than consumers of sex toys. Sex toy professionals understand women as ideal users whose sexual desire and consumption are morally defensible. Not only do girl-power sex positivity discourses valorize women’s orgasms, but men’s sex toy use is disavowed and even openly reviled by producers. This seems to upend existing configurations of heterosexual privilege, which ordinarily benefit men’s sexual desire. However, the reversal reveals a shared moral feature of gendered heterosexuality, which privileges women as sexually purer than men, who are encumbered with tainting lasciviousness.
Article
Service and advocacy organizations have long struggled to find the appropriate language to name traumatic experiences when working with vulnerable populations. Organizations have been pressed to adopt either “victim”-based language or “survivor”-based language, with both terms seen as having mutually exclusive meanings. However, despite academic and popular debates, no recent studies have documented trends in language used to describe traumatic experiences, whether of sexual and relationship violence, or of experiences of war, disaster, or major illness. In this research note, we use administrative data from the Internal Revenue Service to analyze how 3,756 service and advocacy organizations use trauma-related language between 1998 and 2016. Descriptive analysis shows that survivor language has been on the rise as victim language declined. Victim remains a common way to name trauma, however, and survivor tends to join, rather than displace, victim terminology. Further analysis also points to gendered use of both terms. Victim and survivor are used together most often in organizations that work with trauma experienced by women and in the field of sexual and relationship violence. We suggest these findings indicate a more complex story of how communities of language users emerge, which aligns with recent sociological treatments of discourse.
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In this chapter, we delineate some of the key themes in foundational transgender studies texts including: the rejection of the traditional male/female binary as prescribed by the medical model of transgender identity, the endorsement of a self-deterministic approach to gender identity, and the emphasis on the polyvocality of the transgender experience. Juxtaposing these themes with psychological research we describe the shift from a medical model of transgender identity to an affirmative paradigm in transgender care. We describe emerging research that documents the polyvocality of the transgender experience. Juxtaposing transgender studies with psychological research on transgender identity suggests interesting psychological differences between different identities under a transgender umbrella as well the importance of sustaining an understanding of transgender identity that is not constricted but that frame trans as a broad and inclusive space.
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The second argument is presented in order to plot an additional four coordinates in the direction towards the centre of the Minotaur’s labyrinth: The South African university’s eyes (not-becoming) are wilfully short-sighted because its third eye (linearisation of time) is tunnel-visioned. Its brain (single story scripts) is narrow-minded because its spinal cord (cultural memory) is unmalleable. The storied re-formation of not-becoming “modern” scientists entails a conception of temporality which draws on the reductionist approach of Newton’s theorisation of time for whom time functions like a spatial coordinate. Linear time is our tunnel-visioned third eye. The re-formation of not-becoming “modern” scientists creates a told storied reality of “[b]ecoming white as an institutional line [that] is closely related to the vertical promise of class mobility” (Ahmed, Feminist Theory, 8(2), 149–168, 2007, p. 160). The dynamics of existing knowledge systems means that institutions are often in the business of what Essed and Goldberg (Ethnic and Racial Studies, 25(6), 1066–1082, 2002) call cultural cloning which creates a sense of alienation from the product of labour and the act of production itself (Bulhan, 1985; Marx, The economic and philosophic manuscript of 1844, International Publishers, 1964). Not-becoming is our wilfully short-sighted eyes. The psychical effects of the re-formation of this told storied reality is that cultural definitions of humanity become instruments of structural power that are used to create cultural boundaries defined along lines of racial, national, geographical or linguistic divisions (Payne, Culture. In M. Payne & J. R. Barbera (Eds.), A dictionary of cultural and critical theory (2nd ed.), Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). As a result, “full personhood” is attained through assimilation into the dominant culture’s sense of value, which means the separate deaths of one’s self (Lugones, Pilgrimages Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition against Multiple Oppressions. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003; Lugones & Price, Dominant culture: El Deseo por un Alma Pobre (The desire for an impoverished soul). In D. A. Harris (Ed.), Multiculturalism from the margins: Non-dominant voices on difference and diversity (pp. 103–127), Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995). Sedimented cultural memory is our unmalleable spinal cord. This told storied reality, and psychical effects are masked and re-formed through deeply entrenched and sedimented ideological “scripts” (Appiah, Identity, authenticity, survival: Multicultural societies and social reproduction. In C. Taylor (Ed.), Multiculturalism: Examining the politics of recognition, Princeton University Press, 1994), “story lines” (Bonilla-Silva, Lewis, & Embrick, “I did not get that job because of a Black man…”: The story lines and testimonies of color-blind racism, Paper presented at the Sociological Forum, 2004) or “story stock” (Linde, Working the past: Narrative and institutional memory, Oxford University Press, 2009), which are informed by Western distinction between the masculine and the feminine, the social construction of honour and shame at the core of virginity control (Awwad, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 1(15), 105–110, 2011) and the patriarchal family as an administrative base unit in political-economic state structures (Ortner, Feminist Studies, 4(3), 19–35, 1978). Single story scripts is our narrow-minded brain. Conversely, the second counter-argument is presented in order to plot an additional four coordinates away from the centre of the labyrinth: The South African university’s brain (plurality of stories) is broad-minded because her spinal cord (r-evolving cultural memory) is malleable. Her eyes (becoming) are farsighted because her third eye (cyclical time) is visionary. The storied trans-formation of becoming modern scientists entails a conception of temporality which draws on Einstein’s theorisation of relativity in that space takes into account the relations between being in positions within changing sequences of actions and events which are always in the process of becoming (Faist, Social space. In G. Ritzer (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of social theory (Vol. 2, pp. 760–763), Sage, 2005). Circular time is our visionary third eye. The trans-formation of becoming modern scientists creates a told storied reality of a person’s “body as narratively unruly” (Punday, Narrative bodies: Toward a corporeal narratology, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, p. 94) which resists dominant semantic patterns and creates the conditions for people to transform objects which in turn transform them (Bulhan, 1985; Marx, The economic and philosophic manuscript of 1844, International Publishers, 1964, 1973). Becoming is our farsighted eyes. The psychical effects of the trans-formation of this told storied reality is that human beings would be understood through communities and as co-creators of dialectically evolving set of values (Gordon, An introduction to Africana philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2008). In this sense, the evolution of culture as new unfolding worlds is sustained through living knowledges and the widening of human imagination. (R)evolving cultural memory is our malleable spinal cord. This told storied reality, and its psychical effects are unmasked through sitting with fragmented pieces of our shattered selves and trans-formed by (re)pairing fragments of our-selves through critical psychosocial mnemonics (Duncan, Stevens, & Canham, South African Journal of Psychology, 44(3), 282–291, 2014) and collective memory work (Haug, Beyond female masochism. Memory work and politics, Verso, 1992). These rituals of meaning-spirit making shape individual lives as a question and reformulate collective cultural patterns of symbolisation. A plurality of stories is our broad-minded brain.
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Young women must often contend with cultural scripts dictating neoliberal/postfeminist ideals of female sexual agency, including the ability to act in accord with one's personal sexual self-interest. The aim of this study was to explore how young women (n = 26) living with dyspareunia (pain experienced during penetrative sexual activity) negotiate these ideals. We found that in addition to discussing traditional discourses that assign value to women in accordance with their perceived sexual virtue, women judged themselves according to the degree to which their behaviour reflected sexual agency. Women perceived to be sexually agentic were, for the most part, lauded, while those perceived to lack sexual agency were either denigrated (in the case of high sexual activity) or seen as deficient (in the case of low sexual activity). The inability to be penetrated without pain significantly limited women's sexual repertoires. Contrasting their sexual agency with that of other women and of their past selves, women expressed feelings of disempowerment. Conceptualising agency as a spectrum rather than something that one has or lacks, as well as actively cultivating the potentialities of sexual 'transgression', may allow young women to resist heteronormative sexual hierarchies - including those rooted in a a postfeminist ethos.
Article
To reduce rates of unintended pregnancy, medical and public health associations endorse a contraceptive counseling model that ranks birth control methods by failure rate. This tiered model outlines all forms of birth control but recommends long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) to eliminate user error and increase continuation. Our critical discourse analysis of gynecology textbooks and medical recommendations examines how gendered and neoliberal ideas influence risk assessments underlying the tiered contraceptive counseling model. Specifically, we explore how embodied, lifestyle, and medical risks are constructed to prioritize contraceptive failure over adverse side effects and reproductive autonomy. We find that the tiered model’s focus on contraceptive failure is justified by a discourse that speciously conflates distinct characteristics of pharmaceuticals: efficacy (ability to produce intended effect) and safety (lack of unintended adverse outcomes). Efficacy discourse, which filters all logic through the lens of intended effect, magnifies lifestyle and embodied risks over medical risks by constructing two biased risk assessments. The first risk assessment defines ovulation, menstruation, and pregnancy as hazardous (i.e., embodied risk); the second insinuates that cisgender women who do not engage in contraceptive self-management are burdensome to society (i.e., lifestyle risk). Combined, these assessments downplay side effects (i.e., medical risks), suggesting that LARC and other pharma-contraceptives are worth the risk to protect cisgender women from their fertile bodies and to guard society against unintended pregnancy. Through this process, ranking birth control methods by failure rates rather than by side effects or reproductive autonomy becomes logical as efficacy is equated with safety for cisgender women and society. Our analysis reveals how technoscientific solutions are promoted to address social problems, and how informed contraceptive choice is diminished when pharma-contraceptives are framed as the most logical option without cogent descriptions of their associated risks.
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The purpose of this study was to explore young women’s experiences of pornography and how they believe pornography has affected both themselves and other adolescents in terms of sexuality and sexual experiences. Seven young women aged 17–18 years were interviewed and their narratives were analyzed through thematic analysis. The results show that the participants’ pornography consumption has at times evoked feelings of shame in relation to their official feminist stance. Moreover, they all report experiences of being pressured to adopt a “supporting role” in sex and to perform in line with a narrow pornographic script, thus compromising their wish to enjoy sex and enact sexual agency. It is also evident how the participants have struggled to navigate through the conflicting positions that are available within a postfeminist culture, for instance in relation to feminism, heterosexual gender norms, and the strong ideal of being an “agent” in sex. In the pursuit of young women’s healthy sexual development, the results highlight the need for safe female venues, a relational understanding of agency, cultural change rather than individualized responsibility, porn literacy training, and the advancement of broader sexual scripts.
Article
Thinking sexuality education and religion together often results in antagonisms that pit religious and secular values against each other. Political theology provides new insights into this tendency by showing how modern concepts of political legitimacy are based on secularised Christian theology. Neoliberal schooling, public sexual health and human rights provide legitimacy for sexuality education in post-Christian societies and all three are grounded in political theology. The political theology of sexuality education can be seen wherever ideal sexual subjectivities are presented which set up standards which one can succeed or fail to meet with clear consequences. These standards could be heterosexual, safe and marital, but equally agential, pleasurable, transgressive and self-aware. While there may be many ways of escaping the Christian political theological foundations of sexuality education altogether, a political theology of non-violence opens up a way for Christian and secular conceptions of sexuality education to move forward amidst significant cultural and moral difference.
Article
Some argue that sexual field theory is the most promising approach to developing a comprehensive theory of collective sexual life. Yet, it remains underdeveloped. Pointing to a narrow empirical foundation, I use collegiate hookup cultures to reveal the potential of extended case study. I present the first comprehensive consideration of hookup cultures from a field theory perspective and show how these cases can both answer existing questions and provoke new ones. These include questions about the relationship between structures of desire and complex, contradictory, and untapped personal desires; the role of aversion and trauma in shaping the habitus; the dynamics of power, from the micro to the macrosociological; the bounds and reach of a field’s force; and sexual fields’ embeddedness in organizations. Given these potential theoretical advances, I argue that a wider range of cases will allow sexual field theory to fulfill its promise to sexualities scholarship.
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Youth’s participation in community service is a proposed but uncharted way to prevent their violent perpetration. To clarify the preventive function, this study analyzes two-wave panel survey data on 1,710 Chinese youths in Hong Kong according to empowerment theory. Specifically, the theory posits that empowerment functions when it targets youth plagued by powerlessness. Two hypothesized conditions of relative powerlessness are being female and living in poor housing. Results support the hypotheses when participation in community service appeared to prevent violent perpetration, and the prevention was greater under the two powerless conditions. These results importantly emerged with the control for prior violent perpetration and adjustment for selectivity into the participation. The results thus imply the value of inviting youth to participate in community service to prevent their violent perpetration. The invitation can target youth who are female or residing in poor housing.
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In this concluding chapter we discuss some of the insights gained from juxtaposing three eclectic fields of knowledge: queer studies, transgender theory, and psychological research. Because the queer and transgender projects are political projects, in this conclusion we focus on understanding the processes that may lead to fragmentation within the queer and transgender movement as well as processes that are associated with continued solidarity activism among an increasing number of queer and transgender identities. To examine processes of intragroup conflict and solidarity activism we juxtapose research in social psychology, Black psychology, and contributions by queer thinkers in promoting community norms that support activism, dialogue, and solidarity.
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Introduction Most sexual health interventions focus on individual-level predictors of sexual behavior. Given the considerable influence of environmental factors on adolescent girls’ sexual health, current interventions may be insufficient to promote safer sex. In this study, we aimed to understand adolescent girls’ anticipated barriers to engaging in safer sex behavior after completing a brief, web-based sexual health intervention called HEART. Methods This study used qualitative interviews with 50 adolescent girls who were recruited from community-based organizations that serve vulnerable youth. All participants were 12 to 19 years old (mean age = 15.62, SD = 1.83), and identified with a marginalized racial/ethnic group (58% Black; 18% Latinx; 24% Asian, biracial, or multiracial). Further, 24% identified as LGBTQ + , and 58% were sexually active. Results Guided by the social ecological model, we delineate six unique barriers to safer sex discussed by adolescents: partner manipulation, slut shaming, unclear sexual values, present time orientation, embarrassment, and access to sexual and reproductive health services. Discussion We conclude with recommendations for addressing these barriers to optimize adolescent girls’ sexual health.
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Ces articles debattent des reflexions theoriques et empiriques concernant les discours de victimisation des femmes par rapport au viol. Les AA. se penchent ici sur les theories feministes existentes et plus particulierement de l'inluence des theories post-modernes sur la condition feminine
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Many studies document the susceptibility of adolescent girls in the child welfare system to negative sexual experiences (e.g., James et al. 2009). However, this body of research tends to frame sexual risk in individualized, deficit-focused terms that overlook contextual factors and girls’ sexual agency (Harris 2004; Kelly 2001). We analyzed the sexual history narratives of adolescent girls in residential treatment using theoretical and inductive thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006) to gain a more thorough understanding of their sexual risks and sexual agency. Participants described advocating for their sexual interests but with variable success. Upon examination of occasions when agency did not produce intended results, we observed participants’ vulnerability to be linked to their broader social, material, and relational circumstances, not necessarily to intrinsic deficits such as a lack of sexual assertiveness. Results highlight how girls’ sexual experiences are influenced by the contexts in which they are embedded. This more holistic view indicates that sexual health promotion efforts should not only address individual factors related to sexuality but also must bolster the social and material resources of girls in the child welfare system.
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Sexualization of girlhood is a current issue in the US and around the world. Concerns that girls are asked to self-sexualize at younger and younger ages have led to an examination of the influence of media on girls. The current study attempts to explore public views on the ‘self-sexualization’ of a Disney pop star, Miley Cyrus, in what was called a ‘pole dance’ by the media. This performance at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards stirred considerable debate in the news and on public websites. The current analysis examines website responses of 13 websites through a qualitative, thematic analysis of over 500 individual responses. Analysis of internet comments revealed themes of agency and innocence in adolescent female sexuality as well as the function of these themes in US culture. The dominant themes are discussed in light of the largely absent gendered analysis of the performance and its significance.
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The emergence of partnered sexual behavior represents an important developmental transition. However, little is known about individuals who remain sexually inexperienced well into adulthood. We used data from 2,857 individuals who participated in Waves I-IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and reported no sexual activity (i.e., oral-genital, vaginal, or anal sex) by age 18 to identify, using discrete-time survival models, adolescent sociodemographic, biosocial, and behavioral characteristics that predicted adult sexual inexperience. The mean age of participants at Wave IV was 28.5 years (SD = 1.92). Over one out of eight participants who did not initiate sexual activity during adolescence remained abstinent as young adults. Sexual non-attraction significantly predicted sexual inexperience among both males (aOR = 0.5) and females (aOR = 0.6). Males also had lower odds of initiating sexual activity after age 18 if they were non-Hispanic Asian, reported later than average pubertal development, or were rated as physically unattractive (aORs = 0.6-0.7). Females who were overweight, had lower cognitive performance, or reported frequent religious attendance had lower odds of sexual experience (aORs = 0.7-0.8) while those who were rated by the interviewers as very attractive or whose parents had lower educational attainment had higher odds of sexual experience (aORs = 1.4-1.8). Our findings underscore the heterogeneity of this unique population and suggest that there are a number of different pathways that may lead to either voluntary or involuntary adult sexual inexperience. Understanding the meaning of sexual inexperience in young adulthood may have important implications for the study of sexuality development across the life course.
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We examine the relationship between body size (specifically, weight and height) and dating and sexual activity using two large, nationally representative, longitudinal data sets. Our conceptual framework assumes that the utility an adolescent derives from dating and sexual activity is a function of the weight and height of his or her partner, and it predicts that heavier and shorter adolescents will be less likely to date and have sex. Empirical tests confirm that dating is less likely among heavier girls and boys and among shorter girls and boys. In adolescent dating, size clearly matters. For sexual activity, the results are less consistent.
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Current work on hooking up—or casual sexual activity on college campuses—takes an individualistic, “battle of the sexes” approach and underestimates the importance of college as a classed location. The authors employ an interactional, intersectional approach using longitudinal ethnographic and interview data on a group of college women’s sexual and romantic careers. They find that heterosexual college women contend with public gender beliefs about women’s sexuality that reinforce male dominance across both hookups and committed relationships. The four-year university, however, also reflects a privileged path to adulthood. The authors show that it is characterized by a classed self-development imperative that discourages relationships but makes hooking up appealing. Experiences of this structural conflict vary. More privileged women struggle to meet gender and class guidelines for sexual behavior, placing them in double binds. Less privileged women find the class beliefs of the university foreign and hostile to their sexual and romantic logics.
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Casual sexual relationships and experiences (CSREs) such as hookups, one-night stands, friends with benefits relationships, and booty calls have received increasing attention in the past decade. This review examines the role of CSREs during emerging adulthood, as well as similarities and differences among the different types of CSREs. Furthermore, we examine the predictors and positive and negative consequences of engaging in CSREs. While research in the area of CSREs has provided important information about the development and course of these relationships/experiences, future research should focus on exploring these relationships/experiences using an integrated theoretical perspective and longitudinal methods, in diverse, noncollege samples. © 2013 Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood and SAGE Publications.
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This article investigates two of the discourses currently organizing meanings of girls and girlhood. These are the multi-stranded "Girl Power" and "Reviving Ophelia," which both emerged in the early 1990s. I argue that "Girl Power" and "Reviving Ophelia" set up an intriguing illustration of not only competing definitions of femininity but also how discourses may interpellate feminine/feminist subjects in a non-unitary way. At first glance, the two discourses seem to offer opposing significations of femininity. On the one hand, "Girl Power" represents a "new girl," assertive, dynamic, and unbound from the constraints of femininity. On the other hand,"Reviving Ophelia" presents girls as vulnerable, passive, voiceless, and fragile. However, this article demonstrates that it is also possible to view the two discourses as other than opposing, competing, and contradictory. Rather, this article investigates how the two discourses position girls in varying ways in relation to the emerging configurations of subjectification demanded by shifting relations of production, globalizing economies, and redefined relationships between governments and citizens related to the rise of neoliberal policy and practice.
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Neoliberalism--the doctrine that market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action--has become dominant in both thought and practice throughout much of the world since 1970 or so. Writing for a wide audience, David Harvey, author of The New Imperialism and The Condition of Postmodernity, here tells the political-economic story of where neoliberalization came from and how it proliferated on the world stage. Through critical engagement with this history, he constructs a framework, not only for analyzing the political and economic dangers that now surround us, but also for assessing the prospects for the more socially just alternatives being advocated by many oppositional movements.
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Congratulations to Dr. McRobbie! This book has been named to the list of books for the 2009 Critics Choice Book Award of the American Educational Studies Association (AESA).These essays show Angela McRobbie reflecting on a range of issues which have political consequence for women, particularly young women, in a context where it is frequently assumed that progress has been made in the last 30 years, and that with gender issues now 'mainstreamed' in cultural and social life, the moment of feminism per se is now passed. McRobbie trenchantly argues that it is precisely on these grounds that invidious forms of gender -re-stabilisation are able to be re-established. Consumer culture, she argues, encroaches on the terrain of so called female freedom, appears supportive of female success only to tie women into new post-feminist neurotic dependencies. These nine essays span a wide range of topics, including - the UK government's 'new sexual contract' to young women, - popular TV makeover programmes, - feminist theories of backlash and the 'undoing' of sexual politics, - feminism in a global frame- the 'illegible rage' underlying contemporary femininities.
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Knowing Victims explores the theme of victimhood in contemporary feminism and politics. It focuses on popular and scholarly constructions of feminism as ‘victim feminism’ -an ideology of passive victimhood that denies women’s agency -and provides the first comprehensive analysis of the debate about this ideology which has unfolded among feminists since the 1980s. The book critically examines a movement away from the language of victimhood across a wide array of discourses, and the neoliberal replacement of the concept of structural oppression with the concept of personal responsibility. In derogating the notion of ‘victim,’ neoliberalism promotes a conception of victimization as subjective rather than social, a state of mind, rather than a worldly situation. Drawing upon Nietzsche, Lyotard, rape crisis feminism and feminist philosophy, Stringer situates feminist politicizations of rape, interpersonal violence, economic inequality and welfare reform as key sites of resistance to the victim-blaming logic of neoliberalism. She suggests that although recent feminist critiques of ‘victim feminism’ have critically diagnosed the anti-victim movement, they have not positively defended victim politics. Stringer argues that a conception of the victim as an agentic bearer of knowledge, and an understanding of resentment as a generative force for social change, provides a potent counter to the negative construction of victimhood characteristic of the neoliberal era. This accessible and insightful analysis of feminism, neoliberalism and the social construction of victimhood will be of great interest to researchers and students in the disciplines of gender and women’s studies, psychology, sociology, politics and philosophy.
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In this examination of white and Mexican-American girls coming of age in California's Central Valley, Julie Bettie turns class theory on its head and offers new tools for understanding the ways in which class identity is constructed and, at times, fails to be constructed in relationship to color, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. Documenting the categories of subculture and style that high school students use to explain class and racial/ethnic differences among themselves, Bettie depicts the complex identity performances of contemporary girls. The title, Women Without Class, refers at once to young working-class women who have little cultural capital to enable class mobility, to the fact that class analysis and social theory has remained insufficiently transformed by feminist and ethnic studies, and to the fact that some feminist analysis has itself been complicit in the failure to theorize women as class subjects. Bettie's research and analysis make a case for analytical and political attention to class, but not at the expense of attention to other axes of identity and social formations.
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Winner of the Association for Women In Psychology 2006 Distinguished Publication Award!
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Nervous, inexperienced, confused. For most, losing your virginity is one of life's most significant moments, always to be remembered. Of course, experiences vary, but Laura Carpenter asks: Is there an ideal way to lose it? What would constitute a "positive" experience? What often compels the big step? And, further, what does "going all the way" really mean for young gays and lesbians? In this first comprehensive study of virginity loss, Carpenter teases out the complexities of all things virgin by drawing on interviews with both young men and women who are straight, gay or bisexual. Virginity Lost offers a rare window into one of life's most intimate and significant sexual moments. The stories here are frank, poignant and fascinating as Carpenter presents an array of experiences that run the gamut from triumphant to devastating. Importantly, Carpenter argues that one's experience of virginity loss can have a powerful impact on one's later sexual experiences. Especially at a time of increased debate about sexual abstinence versus safe sex education in public schools, this important volume will provide essential information about the sex lives of young people.
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Women's participation in slut shaming is often viewed as internalized oppression: they apply disadvantageous sexual double standards established by men. This perspective grants women little agency and neglects their simultaneous location in other social structures. In this article we synthesize insights from social psychology, gender, and culture to argue that undergraduate women use slut stigma to draw boundaries around status groups linked to social class-while also regulating sexual behavior and gender performance. High-status women employ slut discourse to assert class advantage, defining themselves as classy rather than trashy, while low-status women express class resentment-deriding rich, bitchy sluts for their exclusivity. Slut discourse enables, rather than constrains, sexual experimentation for the high-status women whose definitions prevail in the dominant social scene. This is a form of sexual privilege. In contrast, low-status women risk public shaming when they attempt to enter dominant social worlds.
This chapter is organized around the question "How do adolescents learn to have healthy sex?" The chapter assumes that sexual learning derives from a broad range of both informal and formal sources that contribute to learning within the context of neurocognitive brain systems that modulate sexual motivations and self-regulation. The overall objective is to consider how adolescents become sexually functional and healthy and to provide a conceptual basis for expansion of sexual learning to better support healthy sexual functioning. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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This article explores two different discourses of sexuality among female gang members. Homegirls have long been associated with stereotypes about their sexuality—they are usually portrayed as either too sexual or not (hetero)sexual enough. Yet, in spite of these stereotypes, we know little about how female gang members themselves talk and think about sexuality. In this article, using data from the authors’ ongoing study of street gangs in the San Francisco Bay Area, the authors trace two very different discourses of sexuality among female gang members. The first discourse centers on a modern-day variation of the classic dichotomy between “good” and “bad” girls. A second discourse of “sexual autonomy” stresses the female gang members’ own sexual needs, choices, and actions. Both discourses are not solely about sex per se. They express concerns about a homegirl’s place in the social world of which she is part.
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In a 2010 issue of Sex Roles and in a recent jointly authored work, Lamb and Peterson (2011) introduced and grappled with some of the most complex debates surrounding adolescent female sexuality. In response to the questions they pose regarding the constitution of young women’s sexual empowerment, this commentary revisits the fundamental principles of empowerment theory and practice. Empowerment is popularly equated with individualized concepts of self-efficacy and agency. However, collective efforts to develop critical consciousness and to address systemic bias and inequality were originally regarded as essential components of empowerment. I recall these broader, politicized aspects of empowerment as a way of advocating for: (1) a collective approach to supporting young women’s sexual well-being through intergenerational alliances and safe spaces; and (2) a more thorough analysis of how contextual factors, including non-sexual ones, shape young women’s sexual choices and lives.
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The subject of girls’ sexual empowerment is a fertile area for feminist debate. While most feminists are committed to the promotion of diverse and egalitarian sexual possibilities for girls (and women), we differ in our views on how to hold an aspirational vision alongside paying attention to real world constraints on its unfolding. A specific instance of this tension is posed in considering how relevant claims to individual empowerment are within a broader context that remains broadly sexist and limiting as well as saturated with racist and other forms of discrimination and inequality. In this paper, I join the dialogue opened by Lamb and Peterson (2011) to explore some of these questions. I argue that the concept of sexual empowerment, as taken up in these debates, might be too flexible to do the work we require of it. In particular, I suggest that it is unhelpful to fix our lens on claims of individual empowerment, if and where this involves eliding the broader sociocultural conditions of possibility for “intimate justice” (McClelland 2010) for girls and women; and, where it leads us to over-ride the psychosocial complexity of all individuals in ways that distract us from attending to ambivalence and understanding the “cruel attachments” that can bind us to injustice. Rather than seeking to offer an “‘expert’ view of empowerment,” I argue for the value of reflexive, empathic, and respectful feminist critique of the cultural conditions of possibility for such a thing.
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Recognizing or denying another's humanity varies predictably along apparently universal dimensions of the other's perceived warmth (trustworthiness) and competence. New data reveal distinct neural and behavioral signatures of (de)humanizing responses to distinct kinds of ingroups and outgroups on these dimensions. The most dehumanized outgroups (low on both warmth and competence) elicit disgust and avoidance, devalued as literally worth-less. In contrast, groups disliked for seeming cold but respected for competence elicit envy and Schadenfreude. Reactions to pitied outgroups--disrespected for seeming incompetent, but apparently likable enough for seeming trustworthy and warm--focus on prescriptions for their behavior. The humanization of ingroup members, who are both liked and respected, reflects individuating processes in impression formation, not necessarily accurate but at least three-dimensionally human.
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This paper uses data from three waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to investigate the extent to which overweight and obesity of teenage girls affects their sexual behavior. We focus on risky and casual sexual activities such as engaging in unprotected sex and having multiple sexual partners. We estimate fixed effects and instrumental variables models to address the potential endogeneity of weight status, and explore the potential mediating role of self esteem. Preliminary results suggest that overweight and obese teenage girls are more likely than their non-overweight and non-obese counterparts to have casual sexual encounters (that is, encounters with individuals with whom they are not in a relationship). The findings from this study will contribute to knowledge about both the consequences of obesity and the well-being of adolescent girls.
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Neoliberalism and neoconservatism are two distinct political rationalities in the contemporary United States. They have few overlapping formal characteristics, and even appear contradictory in many respects. Yet they converge not only in the current presidential administration but also in their de-democratizing effects. Their respective devaluation of political liberty, equality, substantive citizenship, and the rule of law in favor of governance according to market criteria on the one side, and valorization of state power for putatively moral ends on the other, undermines both the culture and institutions of constitutional democracy. Above all, the two rationalities work symbiotically to produce a subject relatively indifferent to veracity and accountability in government and to political freedom and equality among the citizenry.
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The changing face of femininity is most commonly represented by a newly empowered young womanhood that is, above all else, imbued with post-feminist agency and distanced from outmoded notions of female disadvantage. This article argues that the discourse of such a highly individuated new femininity leaves little room to raise questions of gender inequality or to articulate the experience of difficulty and disadvantage. With reference to Australian empirical research, this article offers an exploration of some of the psychological strategies used by young women in their attempts to live up to these neoliberal, post-feminist strictures and to evade any notion of vulnerability or victimhood.
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This investigation was designed to fill gaps in the extant literature by examining reasons given by youth for refraining from or engaging in sexual intercourse, in addition to their perceptions regarding the advantages and disadvantages of premarital intercourse. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from 103 graduating seniors; 60 self-identified as sexually abstinent and 43 as sexually active. Survey indices were used to assess parent–youth relationships, and parent and peer attitudes toward premarital sex, religiosity, and dating patterns; open-ended questions were used to assess reasons for either engaging in or refraining from sexual intercourse, and to identify benefits and problems associated with both sexual participation and abstinence. The abstinent youth also described strategies employed for avoiding premarital sexual intercourse. Suggestions for future research are discussed.
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This article examines the history of the term ‘slut’ and the articulation of different meanings around it. It traces some of the ways in which the term has been appropriated in various popular culture and new media texts and within subcultural practices and performances. It asks what this reveals not only about the way words are used to define women sexually, but about the way women engage with a culture that frequently reduces them to their sexual value whilst ignoring their sexuality. It argues that this kind of examination can also be a starting point for asking what is at stake in struggles between women, whether this takes the form of struggles over class, generation, aesthetics or politics.