Article

Mobilizing Metaphor: Considering Complexities, Contradictions, and Contexts in Adolescent Girls’ and Young Women’s Sexual Agency

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Abstract

With clarity and elegance, Bay-Cheng (2015) has provided a solid articulation of how neoliberalism has infiltrated the sexual lives of many girls and young women. Without question, research in the U.S. and the Anglophone West, as well as current trends in popular culture and the media in these locales, warrant recognizing neoliberal sexual agency and understanding the variety of ways it interacts with the slut/prude/virgin continuum. While some research has evidenced the salience of neoliberal sexual agency for some adolescent girls, we depart with Bay-Cheng’s (2015) assertion that developmental and age differences not be taken into account and question the primacy of neoliberal sexual agency as a new and comparable hegemony to the slut/prude/virgin continuum. We suggest that there remain other forms of sexual agency that should not be displaced or disregarded and wonder whether a paradigm shift from model to metaphor may be helpful for capturing the complexity, contradictions and contexts that constitute girls’ and young women’s sexuality.

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... It was not meant as an exhaustive dissertation or a deeply held conviction, but a springboard for new conversations and perspectives on young women's sexuality, one that accounts for the emergence of neoliberal ideology and its intersection with dominant gender ideology in the U.S. It is sincerely gratifying to read the reactions from colleagues, including some of the most prominent and provocative scholars of young women's sexuality. All of their contributions, corrections, and critiques round out and strengthen the proposal, whether by enriching its foundation and fleshing out its ramifications (Lamb 2015;Tolman et al. 2015), extending its relevance by mapping it onto other domains (Katz and Tirone 2015), or challenging its fundamental tenets and claims (Lerum and Dworkin 2015;Tolman et al. 2015). In all cases, I appreciate their feedback (after all, is there anything worse than venturing a comment and being met by dead silence?). ...
... It was not meant as an exhaustive dissertation or a deeply held conviction, but a springboard for new conversations and perspectives on young women's sexuality, one that accounts for the emergence of neoliberal ideology and its intersection with dominant gender ideology in the U.S. It is sincerely gratifying to read the reactions from colleagues, including some of the most prominent and provocative scholars of young women's sexuality. All of their contributions, corrections, and critiques round out and strengthen the proposal, whether by enriching its foundation and fleshing out its ramifications (Lamb 2015;Tolman et al. 2015), extending its relevance by mapping it onto other domains (Katz and Tirone 2015), or challenging its fundamental tenets and claims (Lerum and Dworkin 2015;Tolman et al. 2015). In all cases, I appreciate their feedback (after all, is there anything worse than venturing a comment and being met by dead silence?). ...
... For instance, my references to neoliberal sexual agency do not equate neoliberalism with agency, as Lerum and Dworkin (2015) assert. Instead, I use Bneoliberal^as a modifier for the precise purpose of distinguishing it from the varied, multifaceted forms of sexual agency explored by Tolman et al. (2015). I also do not see how specifying neoliberal scripts and expectations as such Breduces […] some of the most important collective victories earned for (some) women and girls through second and third wave feminism^ (Lerum and Dworkin 2015, this issue). ...
Article
By proposing that gendered sexual norms dictating young women’s sexuality (i.e., the Virgin-Slut Continuum) are now joined by neoliberal scripts for sexual agency (i.e., the Agency Line), my hope was to prompt new conversations about the ideological context in which young women in the U.S. forge their sexualities. The responses to my original commentary indicate that there are many such conversations to be had. Before pursuing those, I wish to clarify some of the tenets of my proposal, most importantly that I do not advocate for the Agency Line and the matrix created by its intersection with the Virgin-Slut Continuum to be a fair or apt characterization of young women’s lived experiences. To the contrary, I see neoliberal sexual agency as a prescribed and prescriptive normative force that works in tandem with enduring gendered prohibitions to constrain young women’s sexual expression and to reinforce the sexual stigmatization of minority girls and women.
... One could for instance envision other dimensions of sexual agency in relationships. Research also highlights the importance of understanding and incorporating ambivalence as part of sexual agency as girls and young women navigate sexual encounters that they are unsure of (Peterson & Muehlenhard, 2007;Tolman et al., 2015). This psychological and social reality is underscored by questions of what counts as sexual consent in the context of the #MeToo movement (e.g., whether accusations against Aziz Ansari "counted" as sexual assault or were simply a description of a "normal," albeit problematic, heterosexual encounter) and how to strengthen everyone's ability to engage with the vicissitudes of consent and agency. ...
... Neoliberal sexual agency conflates empowerment, entitlement, and desire, fronting freedom while blaming the unequal distribution of sexual consequences on girls, especially those who are multiply marginalized. This particularly problematic social discourse about what kind of agent one should be (or at least perform; Bay- Cheng, 2015b;Gill, 2008;Tolman et al., 2015) is distinct from how we have conceptualized an embodied sexual agency, anchored in women's own feeling, experiencing bodies and desires (Frie, 2008;Maxwell & Aggleton, 2012;Tolman, 2002). ...
... Femininity ideologies continue to demand that girls dissociate from their own desires and bodies, even as these ideologies can also be distinct in different communities (e.g., Brown, 2001). Our findings point to a need for therapists and others who work with girls to help them navigate and resist personal, social, and institutionalized challenges to their sexual subjectivity posed by objectification, contradictory and elusive mandates of appropriate femininity, and the ongoing policing of their desires (Chmielewski, 2017;Fine & McClelland, 2013;Tolman et al., 2015). Clinicians should further work to help girls and young women understand how these experiences may be informed through sexism, racism, and heterosexism, and should help connect young women to relevant resources and activist or educational organizations. ...
Article
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Sexual agency is a fundamental dimension of sexual subjectivity and well-being. Research and theory suggest that it functions in the service of both protection from harm and enabling sexual pleasure. However, sexual agency can be difficult for women to navigate in a social landscape in which femininity ideologies remain powerful social forces, operating in racialized ways. We examined how embodiment, sexual desire, and entitlement to sexual pleasure were associated with sexual agency in the service of protection (i.e., condom use and refusing unwanted sex) and pleasure (i.e., asking for what one wants from a sexual partner) for Black and White heterosexual college women using path analysis and path invariance testing. We found that across race, women’s embodiment was associated with greater comfort with their sexual desire, which in turn was associated with greater entitlement to sexual pleasure and sexual agency in service of both pleasure and protection. While Black and White women evidenced similar levels of both forms of agency, Black participants’ agency in the service of protection was unrelated to their entitlement to sexual pleasure. We discuss these findings in light of racialized discourses of women’s sexuality and the importance of understanding sexual desire as anchored in the body and enabling young women’s sexual agency.
... While one study with U.S. high school students found girls have more positive sexual self-concepts than boys (Rostosky, Dekhtyar, Cupp, & Anderman, 2008), another with Italian high school students found boys have more positive sexual self-concepts than girls (Marengo, Settanni, & Longobardi, 2019). Importantly, a large body of empirical and theoretical literature finds that when girls express their sexuality, they may be shamed for this behavior while boys may be praised (Kreager & Staff, 2009;Simon & Gagnon, 1986;Tolman, Anderson, & Belmonte, 2015). This gendered socialization may lead girls to believe the sexual aspects of their identity to be taboo or shameful, while boys may develop a sense of pride surrounding their sexual expression. ...
... While the empirical literature on gender differences in adolescent sexual self-concept is inconsistent, research and theory on gendered sexual socialization underscores the heightened negative sociocultural attitudes about girls' sexual expression relative to boys' (Kreager & Staff, 2009;Simon & Gagnon, 1986;Tolman et al., 2015); thus, we predict that boys will have more positive sexual self-concepts than girls. ...
... Sexual script theory asserts that while boys and men are taught that they should pursue and enjoy sex, girls are taught to be sexual "gate keepers" -concerned with the risks of sex and, in many cases, charged with preventing sexual activity (Simon & Gagnon, 1986;Wiederman, 2015). In line with this, when boys express their sexuality, they may be praised (especially by peers) while when girls confidently pursue sex, they are more likely to be shamed (Kreager & Staff, 2009;Tolman et al., 2015). Through these processes, girls are taught to suppress their sexuality and thus, may have a more negative sexual self-concept than boys. ...
Article
The purpose of this study was to move beyond a sexual risk framework to investigate the possible associations among three sex-positive constructs for adolescents: their sexual self-concept (i.e., their positive/negative feelings about themselves as sexual beings), their sexual communication with romantic/sexual partners, and their sexual communication self-efficacy. We also examined differences in these constructs by sexual intercourse experience and gender. Participants were 171 adolescents who had been in a dating or sexual relationship in the past year (Mage = 16.32 years; 64.3% girls). Compared to girls, boys had more positive sexual self-concepts but less self-efficacy to communicate with their partners about sex. Adolescents who reported having had sexual intercourse had more positive sexual self-concepts as well as more frequent partner sexual communication compared to adolescents without sexual intercourse experience. Adolescents with a more positive sexual self-concept had higher sexual communication self-efficacy and reported more frequent sexual communication. In addition, sexual communication self-efficacy partially mediated the relationship between sexual self-concept and sexual communication. Results highlight the connection between sexual self-concept and sexual communication and contribute to a growing body of work on the positive aspects of adolescent sexuality.
... At the heart of these anxieties and their corresponding debates are social norms about the acceptability of teen sex (Mollborn and Sennott 2014). In addition to the persistence of a (hetero)sexist sexual double standard that assumes all young people are heterosexual and posits distinct and unequal gendered norms of heterosexuality, with teenage boys expected and encouraged to be sexual beings while teenage girls are not (Crawford and Popp 2003;D'Emilio and Freedman 1988;Tolman et al. 2015), scholars have mapped its co-construction with discourses of race and class (Bay-Cheng 2015a;Bettie 2014;Elliott 2014;Erdmans and Black 2015;Fields 2008;Fine 1988;Fine andMcClelland 2006, 2007;García 2012;Harris 2004;Schalet et al. 2014). Concerns over the perceived reproduction of poverty in lowincome communities of color through practices of non-marital childbearing among adolescents and young adults first emerged in the 1970s and persist today (Geronimus 1997(Geronimus , 2003Luker 1996;Mollborn and Jacobs 2012;Pillow 2004). ...
... The scholarship on adolescent girls' sexual subjectivity treats sexual agency as one aspect of sexual subjectivity, which is typically conceptualized as making decisions or acting in ways that take into account on one's own embodied sexual feelings, including choosing not to act on those feelings (Tolman et al. 2015). While researchers have found that among some adolescent girls who are heterosexually active, sex is often described as something that Bjust happened,^indicating an absence of sexual agency (Luker 1975;Tolman 2002), scholars have also attended to the myriad ways teenage girls assert sexual agency by examining their narratives of sexual feelings, behavior, and relationships ( Albanesi 2010;Bay-Cheng and Fava 2014;Burns et al. 2011;García 2012;Maxwell and Aggleton 2010;Schalet et al. 2003;Schalet 2010). ...
... These structural contexts include unequal power relations between men and women within heterosexual intimate relationships and stigma in the form of classed and racialized gender stereotypes that construct girls of color and poor and working-class girls as hypersexual and irresponsible-as inherently Bat-risk^ (Armstrong et al. 2014;Bay-Cheng 2015a;Bettie 2014;Chavez 2004;Cheng et al. 2014;García 2012;Mann 2013). Such dynamics raise questions about whether or not girls who Bare always already presumed to be the (failed) embodiment of adolescent girls' sexuality^are able to exercise what Tolman et al. (2015) refer to as Bembodied sexual agency^at all or to what extent such girls internalize neoliberal messages about how to express and manage their sexualities. While Bay-Cheng (2015a) convincingly demonstrates the emerging hegemony of neoliberal sexual agency as a sexual script and its power to regulate how girls' sexualities are appraised and held accountable to social norms, questions remain about how Latina girls in particular express sexual agency in relation to this seemingly now-dominant discourse. ...
Article
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This article contributes to the literature on adolescent girls’ sexual subjectivities using individual interviews conducted with 30 working-class, Latina teenagers. Latina girls’ accounts of their experiences with sexual debut, current sexual relationships, and sexual abstinence reveal that they construct sexual subjectivities through multiple forms of sexual agency; however, for some, the absence of sexual agency remains an enduring feature of their sexual experiences. The findings illustrate the contradictions embedded in Latina girls’ narratives of sexual agency whereby they often draw on dominant discourses of neoliberalism, heterosexuality, and traditional gender ideology as rhetorical strategies by which to legitimize their sexual decision-making and resist their subjectification as “at-risk” girls. The uptake of these discourses in the narratives of those marginalized at the intersections of gender, race, and class demonstrate the salience of neoliberalism as a form of disciplinary power and have implications for ongoing efforts to foster positive adolescent sexual development.
... More recently, another cultural narrative has emerged-one that emphasizes women's right to an empowered sexuality, signaling an internal, subjective feeling of agency and power (England 2010;Jackson and Westrupp 2010). Recent research on female sexuality has also validated women's subjective perspectives on their own sexual empowerment (Peterson 2010;Tolman et al. 2015). Girls and women have access to sources of sexual information by various media (Joshi et al. 2011), through pornography (Tolman 2012), and even by seeing someone naked because many view nakedness as a sexual act because body parts are given an aura of sexuality by parents and society (Lamb 2001). ...
... Also, with the importance of Internet literacy and use, another future research question concerns whether and in what ways parents are conversing with their children and adolescents about the images they potentially could, and are, coming across. As conversations continue about the influence of comprehensive sex education, parental influence on youth's sexuality, and the influence of the media on youth's sexuality (Lamb and Plocha 2014;O'Sullivan and Thompson 2014;Tolman et al. 2015), more research is needed to understand how youth respond to and interpret their emerging exposure to sexuality. ...
... Such objectification could lead to girls and young women being easily pressured or thus experiencing unwise consequences when engaging in sexual activity. Educators and clinicians can encourage parents, policymakers, and other stakeholders to support young women's sexuality (Tolman et al. 2015). When youth are at school for at least 30% of their day, both formal and informal education provides an avenue for helping to teach these skills. ...
Article
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Women are surrounded by sexualized imagery as well as cultural narratives that dictate their sexual behavior. These diverse cultural narratives include: women are sexually passive, women should desire sex and be sexually empowered, and women are expected to navigate ambivalent societal messages regarding their sexuality. In our study, we explored how college-aged young women describe and understand their first exposure to a sexual image. This mixed methods study, guided by critical feminism, addresses how young women, reflecting on their experiences since girlhood, have navigated changing cultural standards for female sexuality in light of complex negotiations among varying expectations. We examined 445 young women’s written reflections on seeing a sexual image for the first time. Most of the women reported that this experience occurred when they were in elementary school, and at home with friends, family, or alone. We found four themes of reactions to seeing the image for the first time: unwanted, intrigued, ambivalent, and neutral. Implications for comprehensive sex education include the need for teachers, parents, and other trusted adults to provide accurate and age-appropriate knowledge and opportunities for discussion about sexuality. Limitations and future directions are also discussed.
... , these desires are constrained by the complexity of neoliberal notions of freedom and choice as they coexist with the sexual double standard. Popular neoliberal discourses and policies within the context of the sexual double standard produce a depoliticized ideology of autonomous, free choice for all but attribute blame and responsibility only to girls, concealing the gender, race, and class systems of oppression that impinge upon girls' access to their own desires and sexual choices (Tolman, Anderson, and Belmonte 2015). Girls' sexuality still incites panic and punishment and boys are continually presented as unable to contain their desire (Jessica Ringrose, Laura Harvey, Rosalind Gill, and Sonia Livingstone 2013). ...
... Adolescent sexual desire is normative, expected, and should be pleasurable for both boys and girls (Tolman and McClelland 2011). Yet adolescents develop within contexts of gender, race, and class inequalities that involve the regulation of women's sexuality as forms of patriarchal control and oppression (Collins 2004;Tolman, Anderson, and Belmonte 2015). Hegemonic (white, middle-class, heterosexual) femininity demands that good girls not have desire or a sense of themselves as sexual beings entitled to feel and act on their own feelings; only "bad" girls have desire (Michelle Fine 1988). ...
... Similarly, out of the sixteen articles on STIs, approximately 19 percent (N = 3) were reports representing girls of color as at-risk. Girls of color were highly visible in representations as vectors of trouble (Tolman, Anderson, and Belmonte 2015), reproducing racialized stereotypes of teen pregnancy and sexual immorality going back to the problematic Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1965) report on the Black family. Several articles made this connection explicitly, labeling Black and Latina girls as "high risk girls. ...
Article
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Teen sexuality has been portrayed as dangerous (i.e., risk of pregnancy, STIs, sexual victimization for girls) yet pervasive in a growing post-feminist culture of sexualization. Adolescents are tasked with negotiating the difficult terrain of desire and danger as adults persistently construct contradictory discourses and panics around teen sexuality. This study examines a sample of online news media through a feminist intersectional lens, considering race, class, gender, and sexuality as mutually imbricated within dynamics of power, to analyze how contemporary news articles on teen sexuality construct adolescent sexuality at the intersection of neoliberalism and the sexual double standard. Our analysis revealed three particular moral panics around risk for girls: (1) pregnancy and STIs; (2) engagements in sexualization; and (3) sexual victimization. We illuminate how the sexual double standard and neoliberal notions of accountability reinstate and reproduce gendered, raced, and classed representations of adolescent sexualities.
... I have outlined how the gendered meanings circulating within participants' peer contexts disavowed and delegitimised sexual expression for young women (see Tolman et al. 2015). Sexting by young women was perceived and interpreted in negative ways, whereas young men were perceived as more agentic and active sexually. ...
... Harris and colleagues (Harris et al. 2000) argue that young women's sexuality is shaped by expectations regarding control over the boundaries of bodily and sexual encounters in which they are expected to resist male sexual desire. Participants' discussions suggested that young women's value resides in what young men desire, and restricting access to this meant their value is kept safe, with agency for young women being about refusals (Tolman et al. 2015). ...
... Doing so necessarily entails a (re)legitimisation of young women's sexuality in which they are given Ba right to express their sexuality and for these practices to be viewed positively^ (Allen and Ingram 2015, p. 143). If young women are given a right to their bodies and sexualities, and these are not automatically problematised or interpreted in terms of the perceived perspectives of young men, then the grounds for violating their consent (e.g., by bombarding them with unwanted explicit images or pressuring them to sext; distributing their images to bond over in male peer groups) would become less tenable (see Dobson and Ringrose 2015;Tolman et al. 2015). This is not about replacing abstinence with an obligation to be sexual or engage in sexting, but about re-articulating rights to bodily expression, integrity, and autonomy (see Tolman et al. 2015). ...
Article
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The present paper explores how young people construct gendered social meanings and cultural norms surrounding sexual and bodily expression in youth sexting culture. Previous research suggests youth sexting is a gendered phenomenon in which young men are able to seek social capital through sexting, whereas young women are subject to social shaming and harassment. Drawing upon findings from group and one-to-one interviews with 41 young people aged 14–18, I show how constructs of risk, shame, and responsibility operated along gendered lines. Young people attributed agency and legitimacy to young men’s sexual practices, whereas young women were disempowered, denied legitimacy, and tasked with managing gendered risks of harm in youth sexting culture. I discuss how young women negotiated and navigated risk and shame and, in some instances, made space for safe, pleasurable sexting experiences despite and within these narratives. The accounts of two young women, who shared experiences sexting and social shaming, are presented to show some of the ways young women make sense of social meanings and cultural norms on individual and interpersonal levels. I conclude that challenging gendered harm requires a (re)legitimisation of feminine sexuality and bodily expression away from narratives of risk and shame.
... An economic incentive exists for women to cede to sexual objectification processes. In many social contexts, bodies are a form of social and economic currency which allow women to trade sexual acts, access, or inference to the prior to gain power, in an attempt to overcome their marginalization in political and economic fields (Engle 2010; Ronai and Ellis 1989;Tolman, Anderson, and Belmonte 2015;Wesely 2002). ...
... Historically, women's sexual paradoxes negotiated a "slut-virgin" dichotomy (Tanenbaum 1999), where manifesting either "extreme" garnered reprimand. As women's sexual agency is increasingly celebrated, new demands overturn and complicate this previous prescription: promoting the celebrated "appearance of sexiness" (Levy 2006: 30) (Tolman et al. 2015). It is also highly situational, changing over types of interactions and moving between perceptions of one's power and vulnerability (Wesely 2002). ...
... Women learn that "managed" sexualities are critical tools of avoiding physical and emotional threats, particularly those of sexual violence and social defamation (i.e., slutshaming, victim-blaming) upholding sexually and socially "proper" femininities (Brownmiller [1975(Brownmiller [ ] 2007Tolman, Anderson, and Belmonte 2015;Vance 1984;Weitz 2010). In Anglo-Western societies, pervasive discourses about men's sexuality naturalize and "justify" masculine aggression, violence, and lust. ...
Thesis
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The purpose of this study was to explore emerging issues surrounding gendered fear, threat, and violence perpetration at music festivals – particularly events that feature a synthesis of jam band and electronic dance music acts – a genre termed jamtronica by its fans. Though gendered violence perpetration and prevention have been widely studied within other party-oriented settings (i.e., sexual violence perpetration on college campuses), very little research exists to address how wider disparities of gender and sexuality permeate a community whose members frequently claim the scene’s immunity from external inequalities. In this three-year multi-sited ethnography, I incorporate participant observations, group and individual interviews, and textual analyses to progressively layer investigations into: 1) festival-goers’ gender-bifurcated perceptions of the problems they face within the event arena; 2) how institutional and interactional inequalities fuel gender-sexual expectations that exacerbate the risks with which festival-going women’s contend; and, 3) how jamtronica’s “libertarian and libertine” codes complicate women’s negotiations of (sub)cultural agency, expression, and safety. Findings derived across fourteen sites, interviews with 179 festival participants, and countless material texts suggest that men and women do perceive festival “problems” in very different ways – subsequently leading women to calculatedly navigate festival terrains, interactions, and self-presentations in ways that festival-going men seldom must. Protected by scene norms that paradoxically elevate personal autonomy and group integration, festival-going men’s homosocial displays of masculinity (through pranks, drinking and drug use, and even sexual predation) often goes unchallenged – or, is seemingly even encouraged. In an environment that both scholars and study participants claim to eclipse mainstream inequalities of gender and sexuality, a closer look reveals the multiplex ways that festival-going women risk their physical, social, and sexual well-beings in order to pursue the emancipatory promises that jamtronica music festival community discourses purport. For this understudied, yet rapidly growing, subcultural scene, this study offers conceptual and analytical foundations to event-specific violence prevention programming, as well as gender and sexuality-centric initiatives paramount to ever- diversifying jamtronica music festival communities. KEYWORDS: Music Festivals, Jam Bands, Electronic Dance Music (EDM), Gender, Sexuality, Risk
... Similarly, efforts to develop useful models of care for adolescent and young adult women are complicated because these populations are not easily aggregated and have broad, divergent cognitive, developmental, and physical health needs. 47,48 The many life transitions occurring at this time create a complex psychosocial experience, rendering difficult the application of universal or even linear developmental models to care planning. 9 In addition, the complexity and extremity of psychosocial change in this population can increase both relational and physical risks, which can include both social and bodily injury risks, cumulatively creating significant short-and long-term implications for individual health. ...
... 9,49 While existing in this state of flux, it may be difficult for adolescent and young adult women to fully recognize and communicate health-related needs. 47,48,50 Nonetheless, it has been shown that young women do engage in behaviors to enhance and improve their health and well-being. 20,23,25 This evidence of self-caring suggests that, like nurses, young women may know more about themselves and their needs than they readily verbalize. ...
Article
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Ongoing development of nursing science requires attention to the philosophical and theoretical bases upon which the science is built. A feminist theoretical perspective offers a useful lens for understanding the needs of both nurses and their clients. Adolescent and young adult women are an underserved and understudied population for whom nursing care can be especially beneficial. Considering the needs of this population from a philosophical perspective, through a feminist lens, is one effective means of developing nursing science approaches that contribute to and ultimately improve care for adolescent and young adult women.
... Research on adolescence and emerging adulthood in particular illuminates that there have been substantive shifts in "the" heterosexual sexual script. The gendered scripts ascribing desire for relationships to girls and for sex to boys have become muddled (Bay-Cheng, 2015;Fahs, 2011;Phillips, 2000;Tolman, Anderson, & Belmonte, 2015). We have yet to determine the psychological impact of this new landscape, what Tolman and Chmielewski (2018) call a "renovated" sexual double standard that obscures yet also holds gender inequities along with mandates for "sexual empowerment" for (some) young women. ...
... In addition, only sexual body esteem operationalizes sexual subjectivity, leaving out the agency and entitlement that is discussed as central in the text (and measured in the Female Sexual Subjectivity Inventory, upon which they rely; Horne & Zimmer-Gembeck, 2006). If sexual subjectivity is indeed conceptualized as power/agency/entitlement as indicated in text, this concept should not be subsumed under self-representations, as sexual subjectivity is a larger concept that, in fact, includes but is not limited to one's sexual and bodily self-representations, that includes one's embodied feelings, and desire itself (Fahs & McClelland, 2016;Tolman et al., 2015). It would appear that Cherkasskaya and Rosario may have it backwards. ...
... It is suggested that the discounting of girls' and young women's rights and experiences, alongside the construction of boys' and young men's inherent sexuality and entitlement, underpins harmful sexting practices (Ringrose et al. 2012;Dobson and Ringrose 2015). Tolman et al. (2015) argue that girls and young women are rarely acknowledged as sexual subjects and, while they are implored to say no, there is little option for them to engage in volitional legitimate sexual and bodily expression. Thomas (2018), in an analysis of young women's self-reported "dilemmas with nude photographs" (p. ...
... Many of the participants' constructions of privacy violations and non-consensual and unwanted sexting was shaped more by their values and expectations around approved masculine and feminine sexuality than the ethicality of such practices. They emphasised the need for young men to avoid looking desperate or creepy when sending unsolicited images or placed responsibility on young women to say no and resist the sexual advances of young men (see Tolman et al. 2015), for example, rather than focusing on the violation of rights entailed in non-consensual sexting. ...
Article
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Educational interventions on youth sexting often focus on individual sexters or would-be sexters, and are driven by the aim of encouraging young people to abstain from producing and sharing personal sexual images. This approach has been criticised for failing to engage with the complex sociocultural context to youth sexting. Drawing upon qualitative group and one-to-one interviews with 41 young people aged 14 to 18 living in a county in south-east England, I explore young people’s perceptions and practices surrounding sexting. By taking a grounded theory approach to the research, I reveal how young people’s shaming of digitally mediated sexual self-expression shaped and was shaped by a denial of rights to bodily and sexual autonomy and integrity. This denial of rights underpinned harmful sexting practices, including violations of privacy and consent, victim blaming, and bullying. I conclude that responses to youth sexting should attend to this broader youth cultural context, emphasise the roles and responsibilities of bystanders, and encourage a collectivist digital sexual ethics based upon rights to one’s body and freedom from harm (Albury, New Media and Society 19(5):713–725, 2017; Dobson and Ringrose, Sex Education 16(1):8–21, 2015).
... In daily life, women now have to cope with various ambiguities regarding the way they communicate about sexuality with their partners (Emmerink et al., 2017a) as the result of the "prude" hegemony, which is considered to be a new form of double standard. This prude hegemony reflects a distinct point between the binaries of the ideal woman who is, on the one hand, sexually expressive, while on the other hand, chaste and virginal (Tolman, Anderson, & Belmonte, 2015). According to this prude hegemony, a woman should be able to express her sexual needs to a partner (i.e., based on sexual agency), while at the same time maintaining an image of chastity by feigning fewer sexual experiences than she actually had (Fetterolf & Sanchez, 2015). ...
... In line with other studies, the current study confirmed that heterosexual, monogamous women in committed relationships face the following complex combination of challenges (Bay-Cheng, 2015;Tolman et al., 2015). Women are challenged: (1) to express their sexual desires while avoiding the possibility of presenting and appearing as a desirous woman (Fetterolf & Sanchez, 2015) by using indirect messagesas prescribed by the social norm; (2) to be responsible for their reproductive health by using hormonal contraceptives, but to protect their sexual health they have to passively rely on their partner´s willingness to use condoms (Mfecane, 2013;Morokoff et al., 2009;Noar et al., 2002); (3) to assume responsibility for household chores and childcare but, at the same time, create favourable circumstances for having sexual intercourse with their partner (Castillo et al., 2010); (4) to maintain an image of chastity and own up to few(er) sexual experiences because women are not supposed to have a sexual past (Fetterolf & Sanchez, 2015); and (5) to adhere to the cultural female script of empathy and kindness when refusing sexual intercourse with her partner (Kitzinger & Frith, 1999), and hence make it up to him after she has refused. ...
Article
In an attempt to extend our understanding of how social contexts co-create female sexuality in Latin America, the aim of the current study was to explore the beliefs, views, and ideas about sexual assertiveness in Latino emerging adult women. Seventeen women between 22 and 30 years old living in Cuenca, Ecuador, participated in focus groups. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used to analyze the data. Findings suggest that the overall views about sexual assertiveness in emerging adult women can be grouped into five categories: (1) gender role schemata; (2) concerns about the partner’s thoughts and reactions; (3) gendered attitudes towards the use of specific methods of contraception; (4) talking about sexual histories as a challenging task; and (5) replication of family patterns. The findings of this study are discussed within existing literature that highlights the influence of gender role schemata on sexual assertiveness. Finally, a plea for more culturally sensitive research is formulated as well as some educational – the need to reinforce sex education programs – and clinical – highlighting the ability to be sexually assertive from the start of a relationship – implications are mentioned.
... Although this "agency imperative" may at first seem progressive, in that it allows women to inhabit the position of the sexually-desiring subject without reputational sanction, feminist scholars debate the utility of framing sexual empowerment in terms of personal responsibility alone (Bay- Cheng 2015a, b;Tolman et al. 2015;Meenagh 2017). These scholars question whether the focus on individual accountability, as it relates to sexuality, obscures the opportunity for a collective, political critique of heteronormativity, racism, sexism, classism, and other structural forces that work to constrain women's sexual expression. ...
... This study adds to this body of literature as the results show that the agency imperative not only serves as a way for women to judge other women, but it also acts as a common way for women to explain their personal "lack" of sexual subjectivity. As other feminist scholars have argued, the framing of sexual agency or lack thereof as an individual problem helps to obscure the ways in which access to sexual pleasure is not necessarily about being shy versus outspoken, but about the cultural and structural forces that continue to suppress women's sexual subjectivity more broadly in the United States (Bay-Cheng 2015a, b; Tolman et al. 2015;Meenagh 2017). ...
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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.
... Second, women tend to communicate their willingness to engage in sexual activity indirectlylikely due to being socially reinforced as gatekeepers and experiencing inhibited sexual agency (i.e., ability to act on one's own behalf sexually, express needs and desires, and advocate for oneself; Tolman et al., 2015). Evidencing gender differences in sexual consent communication, studies have found that men were more likely than women to use explicit verbal cues relative to implicit nonverbal cues (Willis, Hunt, et al., 2019), whereas women were more likely to let sexual behaviors happen to them without resisting (Jozkowski et al., 2017;Walsh et al., 2019). ...
... Further contributing to an already mixed body of work regarding how gender is associated with internal sexual consent Walsh et al., 2019), we did not find gender differences for any of the sexual consent feelings. But consistent with previous research on external consent (Jozkowski et al., 2017;Walsh et al., 2019), women in our sample were more likely to indicate that they typically communicate their willingness by not responding or not refusing, which may be a consequence of diminished sexual agency (Tolman et al., 2015). Interestingly, at the event level men were the ones to more commonly report using no response cues. ...
Article
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Sexual consent is a multidimensional construct that requires the participation of all involved in a sexual encounter; however, previous research has almost exclusively relied on one person's perspective. To address this, we collected open- and closed-ended data on sexual consent from 37 dyads in committed sexual relationships (N = 74). We found that relationship length was associated with sexual consent and couples who accurately perceived each other's consent communication cues reported elevated levels of internal consent feelings. Communicating willingness to engage in sexual activity remains important even within committed relationships. Preliminary findings suggest that further investigations of dyadic nuances of sexual consent are warranted.
... Girls who 'didn't know her' judged her image to be excessively sexualised and, therefore, shameful. The girls discussed how the shaming of girls for online bodily self-representations is based on a constellation of judgements about their character and their 'status' in the peer group (see Tolman, Anderson, and Belmonte 2015). They perceived more 'popular' girls as able to 'get away with' sharing more sexualised or explicit self-representations, pointing, perhaps, to classed constructs of 'respectability' shaping these judgments (see Gill 2007Gill , 2009Ringrose and Barajas 2011). ...
... Their agency was thus 'post-feminist' because it was 'contingent on taking up a limited and prescribed subjectivity' (Meenagh 2017, 448). It points to the need to 'rescue' girls' agency (Tolman, Anderson, and Belmonte 2015) from the contradictory logics of post-feminism that demand bodily perfection and confident self-exposure while punishing girls' for displays of sexuality and individualising their 'failures' to achieve normative idealised standards. ...
Article
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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.
... Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, some focus on listening to girls as narrators, not just reporters, of their experiences (Tolman 2012). Distinctions between sexual agency and sexual subjectivity (Lamb and Peterson 2012) and the meaning of "empowerment" in the context of neoliberal messages that emphasize individual choice (Bay-Cheng 2015; Tolman, Anderson, and Belmont 2015) are also investigated. ...
... The conflation of appearance with sexual reputation is one which has been reflected upon by a number of researchers (see Bay-Cheng 2015; Tolman et al. 2015a;Armstrong et al. 2014;Tanenbaum 2000;Skeggs 1997). For Kimberly, 'even their hairstyles were different' demarcating a clear borderline between her own friendship group and 'the sluts'. ...
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.
... Feminist scholars working in this tradition are increasingly critical of how feminist calls for sexual agency, control, and resistance have largely been appropriated and transformed by other compulsory requirements and propagated by a new postfeminist model of how young "emancipated" women ought to behave within romantic relationships (Brown-Bowers et al., 2015;Gill, 2008Gill, , 2009aGill, , 2009b. These debates have resulted in further useful discussion about the limits, blind spots, and assumptions about how terms are employed in defining and CRITICAL SEXUALITY STUDIES designing research, including, for example, the limitations of conflating levels of "high sexual agency" with "good" sexual decision making or "better" mental health (Lerum & Dworkin, 2015;Tolman, Anderson, Belmonte, 2015). ...
Article
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Attentive to the collision of sex and power, we add momentum to the ongoing development of the subfield of critical sexuality studies. We argue that this body of work is defined by its critical orientation toward the study of sexuality, along with a clear allegiance to critical modalities of thought, particularly feminist thought. Critical sexuality studies takes its cues from several other critical moments in related fields, including critical psychology, critical race theory, critical public health, and critical youth studies. Across these varied critical stances is a shared investment in examining how power and privilege operate, understanding the role of historical and epistemological violence in research, and generating new models and paradigms to guide empirical and theoretical research. With this guiding framework, we propose three central characteristics of critical sexuality studies: (a) conceptual analysis, with particular attention to how we define key terms and conceptually organize our research (e.g., attraction, sexually active, consent, agency, embodiment, sexual subjectivity); (b) attention to the material qualities of abject bodies, particularly bodies that are ignored, overlooked, or pushed out of bounds (e.g., viscous bodies, fat bodies, bodies in pain); and (c) heteronormativity and heterosexual privilege, particularly how assumptions about heterosexuality and heteronormativity circulate in sexuality research. Through these three critical practices, we argue that critical sexuality studies showcases how sex and power collide and recognizes (and tries to subvert) the various power imbalances that are deployed and replicated in sex research.
... For example, the items used to assess the SDSR emphasize boys wanting girlfriends so they can gain social status, and, at the same time, they reflected the belief that girls should avoid being manipulated by boys into sexual relationship because they will suffer consequences to their social standing (e.g., they will be the victims of rumors). Thus, girls who are learning to endorse these sexual stereotypes are also likely learning to downplay their own sexual needs and desires (Tolman et al., 2015) in favor of protecting themselves against boys who mean to do them harm. ...
Article
Television narratives present conflicting information regarding heterosexual, adolescent sexuality. In response to this, the present study examined the associations between adolescent girls’ (N = 419, Mage = 16.37, SD = 1.36) sexually oriented television viewing and their expectations in romantic and sexual relationships in two related domains. Results showed that sexually oriented teen television viewing was positively associated with adolescent girls’ endorsement of the sexual double standard in relationships and earlier expectations about the timing of sexual activities in relationships. This relationship did not differ by levels of perceived television realism, and remained even after controlling for covariates.
... Temporal bracketing of their unwanted sexual experiences also allowed them to minimize any sense of current vulnerability: Violations had occurred because they had not yet learned their limits or become skilled at detecting others' ulterior motives; now older and wiser, they were no longer susceptible. Thus, participants could use time to distance themselves not only from perceived threat but also from violations they had experienced (Tolman, Anderson, & Belmonte, 2015). ...
Article
Reflecting the wide range of consensual unwanted sexual experiences, researchers often have contrasting views of the impact of these incidents on young women. Some scholars support a normalizing view of these as fairly harmless and ordinary aspects of relationships, akin to other forms of willing compromises between partners. Other researchers problematize unwanted sexual experiences, framing them in terms of gender inequalities and detrimental effects. In the current study, we were interested in how young women themselves characterized their unwanted sexual experiences and whether these accounts varied according to a woman’s social location. We interviewed 41 young women (18–22 years old) from three groups: affluent undergraduates, low-income undergraduates, and low-income nonstudents. Almost all of the affluent undergraduates framed their unwanted sexual experiences in normalizing terms, representing such events as relatively harmless incidents and outgrowths of developmental experimentation. In contrast, the low-income students and nonstudents both articulated more ambivalent positions and were more inclined to link their experience to sources of vulnerability, including personal adversity (e.g., trauma, social, and material insecurity) and social norms and stigma. Participants’ sexual histories, life circumstances, and standpoints at the intersection of gender and class were reflected in their experiences of unwanted sex, reinforcing that contextualized analyses and interventions are essential to advancing women’s sexual rights and well-being.
... These accounts are analogous to research with young Western women from Australasia, Canada, and the United States, where dominant discourses of feminine sexuality have customarily been tied to a "good girl" discourse, which idealizes the image of women who are passive, asexual, and not knowledgeable about sex (Harris, Aapola, & Gonick, 2000;Jackson & Lyons, 2013;Tolman, 2002). In this vein, young women are required to navigate their sexual expression according to a slut/prude/virgin continuum, expressing enough sexuality to be normative but not so much as to be labeled a "slut" (Holland, Ramazanoglu, Sharpe, & Thomson, 2004;Tolman, 2009;Tolman, Anderson, & Belmonte, 2015). However, these discourses have consequences for women's sexual knowledge, sexual agency, and sexual subjectivity. ...
Article
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Constructions of normative sexuality shape the sexual scripts that women are permitted to adopt and the manner in which such sexuality can be expressed. We explored experiences and constructions of premarital sexuality among migrant and refugee women recently resettled in Sydney, Australia, and Vancouver, Canada. A total of 78 semistructured individual interviews and 15 focus groups composed of 82 participants were undertaken with women who had migrated from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and South America. We analyzed the data using thematic decomposition. Across all cultural groups, women’s premarital sexuality was regulated through cultural and religious discourse and material practice. Such regulation occurred across three main facets of women’s lives, shaping the themes presented in this article: (1) regulating premarital sex—the virginity imperative; (2) regulation of relationships with men; and (3) regulation of the sexual body. These themes capture women’s reproduction of dominant discourses of premarital sexuality, as well as women’s resistance and negotiation of such discourses, both prior to and following migration. Identifying migrant and refugee women’s experiences and constructions of premarital sexuality is essential for culturally safe sexual health practice, health promotion, and health education.
... Thus, mediating, controlling, and regulating the meanings and outcomes of love serve to reproduce social structures and cultures that subordinate women. For example, women engaging in typically masculine coded sexual behaviours such as casual sex and separating sex from love, risk 'slut shaming', stigmatisation and other forms of social repression (deBeauvoir, 1972;Giddens, 1992;Jackson, 1993;Jackson, 2001;Lee, 2012, 2014;Powell, 2010;Ringrose & Renold, 2012;Tolman et al., 2015). ...
Thesis
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Coach-athlete sexual relationships (CASR) and sexual harassment and abuse (SHA) in sport can profoundly impact athletes’ welfare and performance. Yet, it is often ignored due to sensitivity, secrecy, and lack of knowledge. There is no previous research on SHA in sport in Sweden, and legal, consensual, same-sex CASR is under-researched. The overall purpose of this doctoral thesis is to examine CASR in competitive sport in Sweden. More specifically: a) athletes’ experiences of CASR; b) prevalence of SHA in coach-athlete relationships; c) conceptual and theoretical issues to broaden the under-standing of CASR and SHA, will be examined. Survey methodology is employed in Article I to explore the prevalence of SHA, coach-athlete relationship factors, and association between relationship factors and SHA. A random sample of current and former male and female Swedish athletes (n=477) aged 25 participated. Article II outlines critical issues of CASR, and theories and conceptualisations of romantic love, sexual consent, and female athlete sexual agency is further developed in the thesis research summary. Drawing on interviews with five female elite athletes aged 23-30, experiences of CASR are analysed in-depth using discourse analyses in Article III and narrative case study design in Article IV. Results show that athletes’ experiences of CASR are positively and negatively di-verse but potentially problematic because boundary ambiguity, secrecy, and isolation are common. Social and ethical dilemmas may also occur because CASR intersect con-trasting discourses regarding elite sport, coach–athlete relationships, and romantic love. Moreover, CASR integrate professional and private contexts in which equality and power deviate. The research illustrates empirically and theoretically how female elite athletes exercise agency and recognise consensual, mutually desired CASR where ro-mantic love is priority. However, sexual consent can be ambivalent rather than a mutu-ally exclusive yes/no dualism. Socially, consent is a process of negotiation informed by contextual factors, sexual agency, and social structure. In addition, 5.5% prevalence of SHA perpetrated by male coaches is reported, distributed throughout the sampled ath-letes’ gender, age, sport performance levels, and individual/team sports in the sample. In conclusion, this thesis expands knowledge of athletes’ experiences of love, sexual consent, and abuse in CASR. Previous evidence of SHA in sport is confirmed to include sport in Sweden. Implications for sport and sport sciences are offered.
... However, research suggests a sexual double standard persists: while peers encourage strong sexual desire and assertiveness among boys, girls who are sexually assertive, acknowledge their desires, or have "too many" sexual partners risk being seen as sexually deviant and are less accepted by peers (Kreager and Staff 2009), particularly during adolescence (Tolman et al. 2015). As a result, young women may suppress feelings or restrict behaviors that are not consistent with views of "appropriate" sexuality for women (Tolman et al. 2016), and on average girls do report feeling more guilt and shame about sex compared to boys (Cuffee et al. 2007). ...
Article
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Adolescence is a critical period for sexual development, and previous research demonstrates that school cultures play an important role in shaping adolescent sexual behavior. However, little is known about the role of school context for developing sexual attitudes and sexual sense of self. This study explores how sexual cultures that emerge within high schools shape the sexual development of young women during the transition to adulthood. Using three waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a sample of 9th to 12th graders in U.S. schools in 1994–1995 who were surveyed in 1996 and in 2001 when they were 20 to 26 years old (N = 1,017), this study measures school sexual cultures using the aggregated sexual beliefs and behaviors of students within the school. Multilevel analyses are used to explore the association between these school sexual cultures and young women’s sexual attitudes (perceived obstacles to using birth control, guilt and shame about sex, and expectations of sexual pleasure) in adolescence and their sexual experiences (equal initiation of sex with partner and frequent orgasm with partner) in adulthood. Overall, the results suggest that schools play an important role in young women’s developing attitudes toward sex and contraception. High school sexual cultures are also associated with young women’s sexual behavior in adult heterosexual relationships, as young women who attended schools with students who had higher levels of religious attendance or guilt and shame about sex were less likely to report being an equal initiator in their adult relationships. However, the relatively small impact of high school sexual cultures on young women’s sexual experiences in adulthood, particularly in terms of sexual pleasure, suggests that more proximal contexts and relationships may play a more significant role in shaping their current sexual behaviors.
... Y axis represents the probability that participant reported engaging in SB1-SB7. trigger the "bad" versus "good" girl dilemma that could bias responses (Tanenbaum, 2015;Tolman et al., 2015) or adult need to protect early adolescent girls from exposure to sexually related topics and the presumed threat this could pose to their virginity (Kehily, 2012;Piper, 2018). Nevertheless, should conservative longstanding moral values for virginity change within the adolescent girls' immediate social context, talking about sex and desire would be less taboo and item content would need to be revisited. ...
Article
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We used the developmental systems model to deduce a definition of female early adolescent sexual desire. We evaluated a measure of this phenomenon with a secondary analysis of data from a randomized group sexual health intervention trial involving low-income, English-speaking, seventh grade Latinas enrolled in a Miami-Dade County public school (n = 542). As part of this study, girls completed a four-item early adolescent sexual desire (EASD) measure. Study findings supported internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha = .81 to .82) and stability over a 1-month period (r = .74). Developmental sensitivity was supported by a decline in stability over 12- (r = .66) and 24-month periods (r = .56). Validity was supported by correlations with puberty changes, sexual intentions, sexting, and sexual behavior, and hypothesized mean differences associated with dating and preference for shoes culturally associated with female sexual attractiveness (p < .01). Research implications include validation work with other ethnic/racial groups and using the EASD as a starting point for a measurement continuum tracking development of sexual desire across adolescence and into adulthood. Directions for future research also include measuring the development of sexual desire in boys and transgendered youth across adolescence and into adulthood.
... Scholars have argued that Black female sexual scripts are rooted in heteronormative, patriarchal, racial, and classist structural social factors [57]. However, the current literature on sexual subjectivity and sexual agency dismisses these in favor of sociohistorical factors more associated with wealthy White women and individual sexual decision-making [58][59][60]. The perspectives of Black women about sexuality and sexual behaviors through the lens of the historical gendered racial inequities that have impacted the sexuality of Black girls and women are essential to address sexuality within Black womanhood and influence sexual scripts. ...
Article
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While Black girls and women are disproportionately impacted by sexual health disparities, there continues to be an overwhelming focus on individual risk behaviors within prevention initiatives, which offers a fragmented narrative of the multidimensional nature of risk and plausibly limits effectiveness of prevention programs and attenuates reductions in disparities. Because sexual health is experienced within an individual’s beliefs/values, interpersonal relationships, and behaviors and reflects larger social and cultural systems, it is important to critically examine common theories used to inform HIV/STI prevention interventions for Black women and girls. To fill this gap in the literature, we critique two commonly used theories in HIV/STI prevention interventions, namely the social cognitive theory and the theory of gender and power, by highlighting theoretical and practical strengths and weaknesses. We propose research implications that incorporate key strengths of the two theories while adding new concepts grounded in the intersectionality theory. The overall goal is to introduce a more comprehensive conceptual model that is reflective of and applicable to the multidimensional sexual experiences of Black girls and women within the evolving definition of sexual health and behavior.
... We examine, then, how intersecting risk discourses tied to structural constraints of gender, sexuality, age, and race and ethnicity influence young LBQ+ Latinas' sexual and reproductive health. Our specific focus on LBQ+ Latina young adults also delineates how youth transitioning into adulthood struggle to assert agency, pleasure, and identity within the intersections of oppressive structures (Tolman et al. 2015). Furthermore, we challenge the theoretical and empirical focus of individualized risk management to document how this framing which eclipses the ways intersecting structural conditions can shape and constrain marginalized youth's sexual and reproductive autonomy. ...
Article
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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer (LGBQ+) youth’s sexual and reproductive health is often framed as “at-risk.” For LGBQ+ young people who inhabit multiple marginalized statuses, such as lesbian, bisexual, or queer (LBQ+) Latinas, managing these risk discourses and their health may be even more complicated. The perspectives of LBQ+ youth of color can elucidate how risk discourses hinge on multiple, intersecting axes to shape youth’s sexual and reproductive health when their sexual identities are also stigmatized. We employ an intersectional analysis to qualitatively explore 30 LBQ+ Latina young adults’ encounters with sexual and reproductive health risk discourses. Findings show how some LBQ+ Latinas had to manage the constraints of heteronormative health discourses in maintaining their health. Relatedly, some participants emphasized their struggles in navigating barriers to sexual and reproductive health care, often stemming from fears of experiencing prejudice and discrimination. Finally, certain LBQ+ Latina young people challenged negative stereotypical discourses by conceptualizing their sexual identity/behavior as health promotive and engaged in proactive and preventative health behaviors. Our study challenges the theoretical focus of individual risk among marginalized youth to highlight how this framing eclipses structural conditions and how intersecting risk discourses shape and constrain youth’s sexual and reproductive autonomy.
... I use "girls" and "young women" interchangeably to refer to the ages ranging from early adolescence to early (or emerging) adulthood. While substantial changes occur across this developmental span both intrapersonally and in youths' social worlds and relations (Else-Quest & Hyde, 2009;Tolman, Anderson, & Belmonte, 2015), girls and young women are nevertheless subject to many of the same forces, particularly the mix of anxiety, excitement, and objectification that their sexualities and bodies provoke (American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, 2007;McClelland & Hunter, 2013). By referring interchangeably to adolescent girls and young adult women, I want to draw attention to the fact that someone's developmental stage does not insulate her from sexual or sexist norms. ...
Article
Through a conceptual analysis of sexual agency, I consider the limitations and distortions of what we typically recognize as agency and whom we recognize as agents. I argue that the dominant perspective of sexual agency as an outward performance of an internal attribute both: underestimates its presence, blinding us to the many manifestations of agency, including among girls imagined to have none; and overestimates its potency, insinuating that individual will is enough to fend off sexual vulnerability forged by social injustice. Instead, I recommend a theoretical lens that permits us to see girls’ sexual agency as a matter of fact, evident even among those who are compelled by social and material conditions to exercise it through sexual compliance, compromise, and concession. Accepting sexual agency as ubiquitous among young women can help reorient attention and action away from changing girls and instead toward changing the pervasive, systemic threats to their well-being, sexual and otherwise.
... Another widely held belief among young people (approximately half of the adolescents in our study) is that women are the ones who must protect their own privacy, which coincides with research studies that associate being a woman with greater vulnerability and pressure on social media [34][35][36]. The analysis of sexual scripts by gender in adolescence describes how men take on more of a predator and consumer role, whereas women act more like sexual bearers [37], maintaining a double sexual standard in the virtual environment. Setty [24] analyzes the discourses about sexting in adolescents according to their type of masculinity. ...
... Another widely held belief among young people (approximately half of the adolescents in our study) is that women are the ones who must protect their own privacy, which coincides with research studies that associate being a woman with greater vulnerability and pressure on social media [34][35][36]. The analysis of sexual scripts by gender in adolescence describes how men take on more of a predator and consumer role, whereas women act more like sexual bearers [37], maintaining a double sexual standard in the virtual environment. Setty [24] analyzes the discourses about sexting in adolescents according to their type of masculinity. ...
Article
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Sexting consists of sending, receiving, and distributing images of sexually suggestive content through electronic devices. This practice is one of the new ways of linking sex affectively through virtual environments, especially in adolescence. However, not all young people have the same relationship with the practice of sexting. This study of a sample of 603 Spanish and Moroccan adolescents residing in Andalusia analyzes beliefs towards sexting as part of a virtual sexuality and the perception of those who carry it out, defining profiles of affinity to sexting. The cluster analysis reveals the existence of three predominant profiles: adolescents who show a sexting-philia, perceiving it as a fun, flirty, and daring practice; sexting-phobes, who consider sexting to be characteristic of people, or attitudes, who are desperate, impolite, and conflicting; and a third ambivalent profile of people who appreciate the practice as something fun but conflicting. The majority discourse is one that presents a positive view of this phenomenon. Young people also recognize that sexting has some characteristics of virtual sexuality, such as a loss of privacy and a distance between virtual and real behavior. These findings allow us to deepen our understanding of the new practices of relationships and offer measures for the prevention of the associated risks.
... 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.
... The body of literature that has either drawn on or contributed to the development of critical theories of sexual agency has largely been based on fieldwork conducted in Western contexts (Allen 2003;Renold and Ringrose 2011;Fox and Alldred 2013;Bay-Cheng 2015;Tolman, Anderson, and Belmonte 2015). In Western Anglophone academia, increasing attention has been paid to the ways that neoliberalism -understood here as a technology of power which positions subjects as autonomous and self-regulating individualistsis reproduced through 'the active, freely choosing, self-reinventing subject of post-feminism' (Gill and Scharff 2011, 7). ...
Article
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Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in rural Tanzania, this paper shows that teenage girls’ opportunities for sexual agency are shaped through assemblages of normative girlhood and appropriate sexuality. Whilst girls themselves negotiate and resist the disempowering affects of such assemblages, as shown through vignettes which illustrate the experiences of three girls who were involved in the education project where fieldwork took place, their capacity to do so is linked to the broader networks of relationships within which girls were situated. Taking friendships and religious affiliation as examples, I show how relationships can generate the conditions for girls to resist assemblages of norms and expectations that structure sexuality and girlhood - but may also reinforce them. This paper counters prevailing narratives on teenage girls’ sexual agency in developing countries as inherently lacking, requiring external recuperation in the form of education and ‘empowerment’, and explores the implications of a relational framing for interventions which seek to genuinely expand girls’ sexual agency.
Article
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This article offers a feminist reading of Josephine Tey’s 1948 Domestic Noir novel 'The Franchise Affair', with a specific focus on the figure of the fille fatale. I investigate the gender-political dimensions of justice and the law, in order to establish the psychological, literary and legal contexts for representing female sexuality and social class in the late Golden Age crime genre. The article furthermore discusses pedagogy, specifically using 'The Franchise Affair' as a teaching and learning case study for the employment of critical pedagogy in the contemporary diverse undergraduate classroom.
Book
Feminist Pedagogy, Practice, and Activism: Improving the Lives of Girls and Women is an anthology which examines the importance of integrating feminism and women’s studies into lives of young adults. Women’s studies and feminist programming provide vital opportunities for young women and men to acquire leadership skills and the confidence to challenge the status quo and create sustainable social change. This text illuminates the multiple methods through which feminist pedagogy is achieved, and provides a mechanism with which the reader may develop their own sense of feminist agency.
Article
Both traditional gender roles and traditional heterosexual scripts outline sexual roles for women that center on sexual passivity, prioritizing others’ needs, and self-silencing. Acceptance of these roles is associated with diminished sexual agency. Because mainstream media are a prominent source of traditional gender portrayals, we hypothesized that media use would be associated with diminished sexual agency for women, as a consequence of the traditional sexual roles conveyed. We modeled the relations among television (TV) use, acceptance of gendered sexual scripts, and sexual agency (sexual assertiveness, condom use self-efficacy, and sexual shame) in 415 sexually active undergraduate women. As expected, both TV exposure and perceived realism of TV content were associated with greater endorsement of gendered sexual scripts, which in turn were associated with lower sexual agency. Endorsement of gendered sexual scripts fully mediated the relation between TV use and sexual agency. Results suggest that endorsement of traditional gender roles and sexual scripts may be an important predictor of college women’s sexual agency. Interventions targeting women’s sexual health should focus on encouraging media literacy and dismantling gender stereotypic heterosexual scripts.
Chapter
This article describes the role of gender socialization in the development and health of girls in childhood and adolescence. Gender socialization can be broadly defined as the process through which individuals learn about and internalize the norms and behaviors associated with their perceived gender. While debate exists surrounding the mechanisms through which girls come to display psychological and behavioral gender characteristics, robust evidence suggests that gender socialization has a lasting impact on girls’ development and well-being. This article reviews prominent theories of gender socialization and surveys the research detailing the primary sources of gender information, the developmental milestones in girls’ socialization, and the notable impacts that gender socialization has on girls’ mental and physical functioning and well-being.
Article
With the rise of neoliberalism, postfeminism and “hookup culture,” young women face both challenges and opportunities when constructing themselves as sexual subjects. This paper explores the experiences of a young woman who sought to have sex with someone new in order to move on from the breakup of a long-term relationship. This case study is part of a larger project which explored how young people (aged 18–25) negotiate their love/sex relationships within the context of new media environments. While this young woman described her experience of having sex with someone new as “empowering,” within a neoliberal, postfeminist context the concept of empowerment may not be a useful theoretical tool for understanding young women’s sexuality. Situating her story within its broader sociocultural context, this paper explores how structural factors shape this young woman’s ability to navigate normative discourses about sexual empowerment and construct herself as a sexual subject.
Article
La stigmatisation de la sexualité affecte les jeunes et les personnes âgées de manières diverses, mais toujours interconnectées. Dans cet article, Leah Tidey et Alexandra Haupt partent du principe que l’expression du genre et de l’âge fait l’objet d’une surveillance tout au long de notre vie, le corps jeune, cisgenre et hétérosexuel étant investi d’une plus grande valeur sociale que tous les autres. Or, le théâtre permet d’explorer dans un environnement relativement sûr les attentes associées à la sexualité, au genre et à l’âge. Tidey et Haupt s’appuient sur des théories en lien avec les scénarios sexuels et d’autres sur la performativité du genre et de l’âge pour s’intéresser aux expériences rattachées à la négociation de la sexualité, du genre et de l’âge vécues par des jeunes et des personnes plus âgées à travers la performance. S’inspirant de leur travail avec des personnes de ces groupes d’âge, elles observent comment ce savoir théorique se concrétise dans le cadre d’un projet de théâtre communautaire intergénérationnel.
Book
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This book contains six articles on young people's negotiation of sexual agency, and forms my PhD dissertation.
Chapter
This chapter draws on interviews conducted with learners in Grade 11 as they talk about hair and makeup. By drawing on a larger study involving focus group discussions with 16–17-year-old, school-going teenagers and their conceptualisation of gender, race, and sexuality, the chapter shows how hair and makeup was a medium through which relations of domination and subordination were expressed and contested. Makeup was regarded, in the gender-mixed interviews we conducted, as inappropriate, and a violation of school disciplinary codes. Girls who used makeup were constructed as “sluts,” but this was also challenged by questioning the sexual double standards for boys and girls. Hair emerged as a concern through which racialised constructions of heterosexual attraction was contested. Black girls in particular challenged their marginalisation at the school and also challenged racialised and gendered descriptions of heterosexual superiority. The chapter shows the significance of sexuality and the racialising processes through which hair and dress configure in young people’s discussions about disciplinary codes at school. Implications for Life Orientation lessons are discussed in the conclusion.
Article
This paper uses close analysis of two couples to examine the micro-practices and processes of gendered power within middle-class young people's intimate partner relationships. It is based on in-depth interviews with 14–16 year old young people in an affluent area of England. The paper argues that intimate relationships can be spaces of intense pleasure, as well as providing a site of calm and escape from the peer surveillance of the broader social network. However, they can also be oppressive sites of constriction and control, and reproduction of traditional gendered narratives; in these couples, the young women were rendered responsible for the “emotion work”. The young women, though, often disavowed and downplayed inequalities, negotiating the contradictory and schizoid nature of contemporary girlhood.
Article
Although violation of gender norms has been discussed as a fundamental component of and underlying foundation for anti-queer discrimination, less research has directly attended to how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer (LGBQ) individuals interpret the role of gender expression in discriminatory experiences. Based upon a racially diverse national sample of 138 cisgender and transgender LGBQ individuals, I discuss results from a content and thematic analysis of discrimination narratives. Findings reveal the centrality of gender expression—how one embodies masculinity and femininity—within participant stories. While gender expression was central to meaning-making among all participants, the type of discrimination experienced and participants’ interpretation of the events depended on whether their gender expression “revealed” or “concealed” their queerness. Race and gender identity also informed participants’ interpretations, underscoring the need for greater attention to how gender norm expectations are racialized and cisnormative. These findings challenge the conceptualization of sexual orientation as an “invisible” identity and the notion of “passing” (i.e., being perceived as straight) as a uniform privilege for some LGBQ individuals. Instead, these results situate the perception of sexual orientation as context-dependent and highlight the need for advocacy efforts that identify and challenge strict gender ideologies, in particular gender binaries.
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Sexual health policies explicitly aim to encourage young people to take responsibility for their sexuality to prevent adverse outcomes such as unintended pregnancies, STIs and sexual assault. In Europe and North America, ‘choice’ has become a central concept in sexual and reproductive health policy making. However, the concept of choice is not unproblematic, not least because the cultural emphasis on individual responsibility obscures structural limitations and inequalities, and mutual responsibility between partners. Moreover, studies on the life stories of young people show how agency is forged and expressed within a social context and is manifested through responsiveness to others. This raises the question of how we can conceptualise sexual agency in a way that includes this sociality. How can we rethink sexual agency beyond autonomy? This article explores these issues using data from four separate research projects that shared the aim of exploring young people’s sexual agency in different areas. Drawing on findings from these studies, it advances a multicomponent model of sexual agency that connects individual choice to the social, moral and narrative context which young people navigate.
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Drawing on three case studies from two UK ethnographic research projects in urban and rural working-class communities, this article explores young teen girls' negotiation of increasingly sex-saturated societies and cultures. Our analysis complicates contemporary debates around the 'sexualization' moral panic by troubling developmental and classed accounts of age-appropriate (hetero)sexuality. We explore how girls are regulated by, yet rework and resist expectations to perform as agentic sexual subjects across a range of spaces (e.g. streets, schools, homes, cyberspace). To conceptualize the blurring of generational and sexual binaries present in our data, we develop Deleuzian notions of 'becomings', 'assemblages' and 'schizoid subjectivities'. These concepts help us to map the anti-linear transitions and contradictory performances of young femininity as always in-movement; where girls negotiate discourses of sexual knowingness and innocence, often simultaneously, yet always within a wider context of socio-cultural gendered/classed regulations. © 2011 The Australian Sociological Association.
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In February 2010 The UK Home Office released a high-profile report, ‘The Sexualisation of Young People’. The UK report came rather late in the international context, following on from earlier reports, including the American Psychological Association Taskforce report on the sexualization of girls (APA, 2007), and the Australian government-led research on the sexualization of children, which generated widespread debate over ‘corporate paedophilia’ (Rush and La Nauze, 2006).
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This interchange explores the role of girl (ages thirteen to twenty-two) activism in the USA organisation SPARK (Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge). Some of the many initiatives and programmes SPARK has enacted with girls, including online forums, blog spaces, marches, and summits directly address recent calls to attend to the complexity in understanding and resisting 'sexualisation' with teen girls. Several of the girls' media appearances are explored in detail to illustrate the dynamics of girls' agency and resistance that emerge in their embodied engagements with 'sexualisation'. © The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions:sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav.
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Break the silence surrounding Black women's experiences of violence!.
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The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
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In recent years ‘tween’1 girls in Anglo-American societies have emerged from relative obscurity to become the focus of public and academic scrutiny. The gaze directed at them is a particularized and often anxious one, grounded in notions that these girls might be growing up too fast, more specifically that they are precociously sexualized. Concerns about ‘tween’ girls’ sexualization have largely made their way into the media and public domains through a growing collection of popular culture texts such as The Lolita Effect (Durham, 2008), What’s Happening to Our Girls (Hamilton, 2007) and So Sexy So Soon (Levy and Kilbourne, 2008) as well as through various reports (e.g. APA Task Force Report on the Sexualisation of Girls, Corporate Paedophilia). However unintentionally, these texts strike an alarmist chord that produces all girls as ‘in trouble’ and create a flurry of media response. Somewhat paradoxically, as Gill (2007) points out, media generate concerns and perhaps revive moral panics about girls’ sexuality while also being cast as the source of girls’ assumed premature sexualization.
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The aim of this article is to demystify what we think we are doing when we engage in qualitative analysis. We illustrate the centrality of affect in meaning making, showing how interpretation is always already entangled in complex affective ethical and political relationalities that circulate in, through, and outside empirical research. We explore research processes as "intra-acting" drawing upon Barad, and develop Deleuze and Guattari's concepts of "assemblages," "intensities," "territorialization," and "lines of flight" to analyze research encounters. Taking inspiration from MacLure's notions of data "hot spots" that "glow," we explore methodological processes of working with "affective intensities." In particular, we draw upon our research with teen girls, mapping out how the discursive-embodied category "slut" works as an affective intensity that propels our feminist research assemblage-from the co-creation of "data" in the field to the "data" analysis and beyond.
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Neuroimaging (NI) technologies are having increasing impact in the study of complex cognitive and social processes. In this emerging field of social cognitive neuroscience, a central goal should be to increase the understanding of the interaction between the neurobiology of the individual and the environment in which humans develop and function. The study of sex/gender is often a focus for NI research, and may be motivated by a desire to better understand general developmental principles, mental health problems that show female-male disparities, and gendered differences in society. In order to ensure the maximum possible contribution of NI research to these goals, we draw attention to four key principles-overlap, mosaicism, contingency and entanglement-that have emerged from sex/gender research and that should inform NI research design, analysis and interpretation. We discuss the implications of these principles in the form of constructive guidelines and suggestions for researchers, editors, reviewers and science communicators.
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Nearly twenty years after the publication of Michelle Fine's essay "Sexuality, Schooling, and Adolescent Females: The Missing Discourse of Desire," the question of how sexuality education influences the development and health of adolescents remains just as relevant as it was in 1988. In this article, Michelle Fine and Sara McClelland examine the federal promotion of curricula advocating abstinence only until marriage in public schools and, in particular, how these policies constrict the development of "thick desire" in young women. Their findings highlight the fact that national policies have an uneven impact on young people and disproportionately place the burden on girls, youth of color, teens with disabilities, and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender youth. With these findings in mind, the authors provide a set of research guidelines to encourage researchers, policymakers, and advocates as they collect data on, develop curricula for, and change the contexts in which young people are educated about sexuality and health.
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In this commentary, I offer a response to Lamb & Peterson (2011). I base these comments on the feminist scholarship on adolescent girls’ healthy sexuality that Lamb (2010a) critiqued in the first of this series. I address and redress several of her concerns by providing the context and history of my own research and recovering the meanings of desire, pleasure and subjectivity as they appeared in this body of work. I then engage Lamb and Peterson’s points of consensus about the role of sexual empowerment in adolescent girls’ healthy sexuality by 1) positioning sexualization as more than a context; 2) identifying a missing discourse of gender inequity as a central issue in their discussion; and 3) explaining how the use of theory and interpretation in feminist research methods is necessary for and distinct from a surface reading of narratives of lived experience. Finally, I will provide examples of some alternative paths for supporting healthy adolescent women’s sexuality that extend beyond school-based sex education and media literacy into alternative engagements with girls through technology, media activism and participatory practices.
Article
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Drawing on three case studies from two UK ethnographic research projects in urban and rural working-class communities, this article explores young teen girls’ negotiation of increasingly sex-saturated societies and cultures. Our analysis complicates contemporary debates around the ‘sexualization’ moral panic by troubling developmental and classed accounts of age-appropriate (hetero)sexuality. We explore how girls are regulated by, yet rework and resist expectations to perform as agentic sexual subjects across a range of spaces (e.g. streets, schools, homes, cyberspace). To conceptualize the blurring of generational and sexual binaries present in our data, we develop Deleuzian notions of ‘becomings’, ‘assemblages’ and ‘schizoid subjectivities’. These concepts help us to map the anti-linear transitions and contradictory performances of young femininity as always in-movement; where girls negotiate discourses of sexual knowingness and innocence, often simultaneously, yet always within a wider context of socio-cultural gendered/classed regulations.
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The latest advances in artificial intelligence software (neural networking) have finally made it possible for qualitative researchers to apply the grounded the- ory method to the study of complex quantitative databases in a manner consistent with the postpositivistic, neopragmatic assumptions of most symbolic interactionists. The strength of neural networking for the study of quantitative data is twofold: it blurs the boundaries between qualitative and quantitative analysis, and it allows grounded theorists to embrace the complexity of quantitative data. The specific technique most useful to grounded theory is the Self-Organizing Map (SOM). To demonstrate the utility of the SOM we (1) provide a brief review of grounded theory, focus- ing on how it was originally intended as a comparative method applicable to both quantitative and qualitative data; (2) examine how the SOM is compatible with the traditional techniques of grounded theory; and (3) demonstrate how the SOM assists grounded theory by applying it to an example based on our research.
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The notion of postfeminism has become one of the most important in the lexicon of feminist cultural an alysis. Yet there is little agreement about what postfeminism is. This article argues that postfeminism is best understood as a distinctive sensibility, made up of a number of interrelated themes. These include the notion that femininity is a bodily property; the shift from objectification to subjectification; an emphasis upon self-surveillance, monitoring and self-discipline; a focus on individualism, choice and empowerment; the dominance of a makeover paradigm; and a resurgence of ideas about natural sexual difference. Each of these is explored in some detail, with examples from contemporary Anglo-American media. It is precisely the patterned articulation of these ideas that constitutes a postfeminist sensibility. The article concludes with a discussion of the connection between this sensibility and contemporary neoliberalism.
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‘Raunch’ culture and ‘porno-chic’ are examples of a dramatic rise in the re-sexualization of women’s bodies. Wrapped in discourses of individualism, consumerism and empowerment, and often excluding those who are not white, heterosexual and slim, this sexualization of culture has created significant debates within feminist literature with regard to the question of how to value women’s choices of participation in sexualized culture while also maintaining a critical standpoint towards the cultural context that has enabled such postfeminist sexual subjectivities. In this paper we contribute to these debates by presenting ‘technologies of sexiness’, a theoretical framework that draws on Foucauldian theorizing of technologies of the self and Butler’s work on performativity. The technology of sexiness framework conceptualizes a blurring between subjectivity and consumer and media culture and highlights the doubled movements in which agency is complexly enabled and disabled in relation to technology, performance/parody, multiplicity and recuperation.
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This article argues that there has been a significant shift in advertising representations of women in recent years, such that rather than being presented as passive objects of the male gaze, young women in adverts are now frequently depicted as active, independent and sexually powerful. This analysis examines contemporary constructions of female sexual agency in advertisements examining three recognizable `figures': the young, heterosexually desiring `midriff', the vengeful woman set on punishing her partner or ex-partner for his transgressions, and the `hot lesbian', almost always entwined with her beautiful Other or double. Using recent examples of adverts, the article asks how this apparent `agency' and `empowerment' should be understood. Drawing on accounts of the incorporation or recuperation of feminist ideas in advertising, the article takes a critical approach to these representations, examining their exclusions, their constructions of gender relations and heteronormativity, and the way power is figured within them. A feminist poststructuralist approach is used to interrogate the way in which `sexual agency' becomes a form of regulation in these adverts that requires the re-moulding of feminine subjectivity to fit the current postfeminist, neoliberal moment in which young women should not only be beautiful but sexy, sexually knowledgeable/practised and always `up for it'. The article makes an original contribution to debates about representations of gender in advertising, to poststructuralist analyses about the contemporary operation of power, and to writing about female `sexual agency' by suggesting that `voice' or `agency' may not be the solution to the `missing discourse of female desire' but may in fact be a technology of discipline and regulation.
Book
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.
Chapter
In the US, psychological researchers have been at the forefront of establishing and contributing to a public discourse on sexualization that holds responsible the media and corporations for using sexualization for profit. A growing body of knowledge produced by psychologists asks a particular set of research questions: What are the negative effects of sexualization on girls and women? How can we understand girls’ and women’s ‘participation’ in sexualization practices while maintaining the perspective that external forces are ultimately responsible and should therefore be called out and redressed? In the US public discourse, sexualization is understood as perhaps an unfortunately simplistic word for two distinct phenomena: (1) the sexualization of culture, which is an intensified presence and infusion of often uncalled-for sexuality into products, media and norms; and (2) the sexualization of individuals, meaning both the process and the effects of living within this sexualized context particularly on girls and women. This includes how girls navigate these pervasive representations of women and girls as sexual objects and introduces the psychological phenomena of self-sexualization and overt resistance to sexualization and being sexualized. Consistent with much of mainstream psychology, the behaviour of girls and women in relation to sexualization is studied with the assumption that this process is a response to the cultural omnipresence of sexualized imagery.
Article
Although sexual behavior is multidimensional, little research has focused on the experience of non-intercourse behaviors for adolescents and emerging adults. This paper uses open-ended coded data from a longitudinal study of college students (N = 346; Mean age = 18.5, 52% female, 27% Hispanic/Latino [HL], 25% non-HL European American, 23% non-HL Asian American, 16% non-HL African American, 9% non-HL Multiracial) to examine what emotional responses emerging adults report about their first experiences of six sexual behaviors. The four most common emotional reactions were happy, excited, fearful, and indifferent. Descriptions were largely positive, although mixed reactions were relatively common and emotional reactions varied by behavior. Results suggest the importance of including multiple types of sexual behaviors, as well as their possible positive and negative outcomes, in sexuality education programs.
Article
Michelle Fine argues that the anti-sex rhetoric surrounding sex education and school-based health clinics does little to enhance the development of sexual responsibility and subjectivity in adolescents. Despite substantial evidence on the success of both school-based health clinics and access to sexuality information, the majority of public schools do not sanction or provide such information. As a result, female students, particularly low-income ones, suffer most from the inadequacies of present sex education policies. Current practices and language lead to increased experiences of victimization, teenage pregnancy, and increased dropout rates, and consequently, ". . . combine to exacerbate the vulnerability of young women whom schools, and the critics of sex education and school-based health clinics, claim to protect." The author combines a thorough review of the literature with her research in public schools to make a compelling argument for "sexuality education" that fosters not only the full developmen...
Article
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.
Article
This qualitative study explores the sexual decision making (SDM) of a group of young New Zealand women who had previously participated in casual sex without a condom. In doing so, it helps address a gap in the literature of first-hand accounts of the factors that have influenced SDM related to sexually transmitted infection (STI) risk in New Zealand. Eleven women were interviewed with the intention of gaining a greater understanding of their SDM before, and in, the 'heat of the moment'. Four major themes related to SDM emerged from the data: 1) the importance of being in a relationship; 2) the influence of alcohol on SDM; 3) the power of societal expectations and the women's desire to be seen as "normal"; and 4) the sense of powerlessness many felt in negotiating condom use. The findings are discussed in relation to their relevance for sexual health promotion in the social context of New Zealand and in terms of research indicating that similar factors influence the SDM of young women in other Western countries.
Chapter
Historically within western societies, girls’ embodied sexuality has persistently been problematized within discourses of risk and danger. In more recent years, these discourses have been reenergized in moral panics about preteen girls’ premature “sexualization ,” argued to occur through their exposure to a sex-saturated media culture. Anxieties particularly cohere around Hyper-sexy bodies, characterized by body-revealing clothing and sexual moves. The process of sexualization, claimed by proponents of a sexualization argument, positions girls as readily influenced by media images such that they emulate the hyper-sexy images prolifically found in “tween” popular culture . Such claims of girls’ uncritical consumption and self-production as “sexualized” have been challenged by an emergent feminist literature that finds girls’ relationships with media are considerably more complicated. The goal of this chapter is to engage with this literature in order to paint an illuminating picture of the ways that girls make sense of the hyper-sexy images they encounter in popular culture and the extent to which they view them as a possibility for self. In so doing, the chapter identifies appropriateness, grounded in class, morality, and age discourses as a recurrent theme in girls’ sense-making about hyper-sexy embodiment in relation to self and others. The appearance of the figure of the “slut” in girls’ negotiations of hyper-sexiness suggests that regulatory discourses of female sexuality exert a significant constraining presence in ways the embodied sexual self may be understood. The chapter argues that the challenge for feminist research is to find ways to work with and for girls that will open up spaces for exploring pleasure in embodied practices of self that escape repressive, limiting boundaries.
Article
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.
Book
Moving beyond media or policy critique, however, this book offers new theoretical and methodological tools for researching postfeminism, girlhood and education. It engages with current theoretical debates over possibilities for girls’ agency and empowerment in postfeminist, neo-liberal contexts of sexual regulation. It also elaborates new psychosocial and feminist Deleuzian methodological approaches for mapping subjectivity, affectivity and social change. Drawing on two UK empirical research projects exploring teen-aged girls’ own perspectives and responses to postfeminist panics, the book shows how real girls are actually negotiating notions of girls as overly successful, mean, violent, aggressive and sexual. The data offers rich insight into girls’ gendered, raced and classed experiences at school and beyond, exploring teen peer cultures, friendship, offline and online sexual identities, and bullying and cyberbullying. The analysis illuminates how and when girls take up and identify with postfeminist trends, but also at times attempt to re-work, challenge and critique the contradictory discourses of girlhood and femininity. In this sense the book offers an opportunity for girls to ‘talk back’ to the often simplistic either wildly celebratory or crisis-based sensationalism of postfeminist panics over girlhood.
Article
The relationship between idealised femininity images in the media and girls' experiences of self and body has long been of interest to feminist scholars. Over recent years, this interest has organised around sexualised post-feminist media in which the female body must be worked upon towards norms of perfection, slimness and also ‘sexiness’. Approaches to researching relationships between girls' embodiment and media images within this post-feminist sexualised context have been dominated by (harmful) effects and psychologising frameworks which obscure the complexity of the relationship between girls' embodied identities and media images. This paper contributes an understanding of this complex relationship through an analysis of media video diary narratives drawn from a project with 71 pre-teen girls about popular culture in everyday life. Our analysis indicates that girls experienced media images through affective registers and that their relationship with images was complex; desire pulled girls to conform with post-feminist beauty practices and product consumption but they also pushed away from the beauty mandate through critiques of dubious product claims, ‘faked’ perfection and unrealistic bodies. These findings importantly emphasise that the relationship between girls' embodied self-understandings and post-feminist media bodies is multi-layered and cannot be reduced to linear effects.
Article
In this article, we question the authorial digital agency that is often ascribed to queer girls by postfeminist empowerment rhetorics and feminist investments in queer subversiveness. Drawing on visual and textual analyses of lesbian- and queer-identified girls’ MySpace pages as well as interviews with girls conducted via instant messenger, we suggest that while girls insist that their digital self-presentations are simple reflections of who they really are, these selves are always produced through normative frameworks such as whiteness and heteronormative monogamy. We contend that discourses of recognition emerge throughout the content of girls’ pages and their own explanations of their online activities. Lesbian and queer girls must describe themselves within legible terms in order to be socially recognizable, and the subject’s fundamental desire for recognition negates the possibility of any completely autonomous, unmediated self-presentation. Elucidating girls’ desire for recognition illustrates the limited range of possible subjectivities available to girls under postfeminism and hegemonic white consumption ideals.
Article
The concept of hegemonic masculinity has influenced gender studies across many academic fields but has also attracted serious criticism. The authors trace the origin of the concept in a convergence of ideas in the early 1980s and map the ways it was applied when research on men and masculinities expanded. Evaluating the principal criticisms, the authors defend the underlying concept of masculinity, which in most research use is neither reified nor essentialist. However, the criticism of trait models of gender and rigid typologies is sound. The treatment of the subject in research on hegemonic masculinity can be improved with the aid of recent psychological models, although limits to discursive flexibility must be recognized. The concept of hegemonic masculinity does not equate to a model of social reproduction; we need to recognize social struggles in which subordinated masculinities influence dominant forms. Finally, the authors review what has been confirmed from early formulations (the idea of multiple masculinities, the concept of hegemony, and the emphasis on change) and what needs to be discarded (onedimensional treatment of hierarchy and trait conceptions of gender). The authors suggest reformulation of the concept in four areas: a more complex model of gender hierarchy, emphasizing the agency of women; explicit recognition of the geography of masculinities, emphasizing the interplay among local, regional, and global levels; a more specific treatment of embodiment in contexts of privilege and power; and a stronger emphasis on the dynamics of hegemonic masculinity, recognizing internal contradictions and the possibilities of movement toward gender democracy.
Article
“Sexuality education”– broadly defined as teaching and learning about a range of issues related to puberty, sexuality, and relationships – occurs all day every day, formally and informally, intentionally and unintentionally. Nevertheless, adults organize policy and instruction for young people around a constrained set of concerns: first, that the sexuality education youth receive does not help them navigate an increasingly sexualized and dangerous world and, second, that the lessons are themselves damaging, exacerbating the risks youth and children already face. I discuss sexuality education’s entanglement with these conventional cultural ideas about youth, sexuality, and education. I consider the ways that abstinence-only and comprehensive school-based sexuality education rest on a series of a discursive framings, including a commitment to regulating sexuality and youth, a contemporary “moral panic” that renders all talk about youth and sexuality provocative, and normative and instrumental conceptions of teaching and learning about sexuality. I conclude by discussing the implications of these discursive framings for classroom practice and imagining an alternative model in which sexuality education might embrace ambiguity and ambivalence as a necessary and even welcome condition of young people’s sexuality and education.
Although research has increasingly emphasized how adolescent sexual behavior may be associated with aspects of health beyond unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, no current theoretical or conceptual model fully explains associations between sexual behavior and multiple facets of health. We provide a conceptual model that explicates possible processes of how adolescent sexual behavior may influence physical, mental, and social health. Next, we review the current literature consistent with this conceptual model, demonstrating that although early sexual behavior can be associated with some negative outcomes, sex may be, on average, a positive experience in late adolescence. Finally, we discuss important future directions for research in these areas, including how individuals' attitudes about and perceptions of sexual behavior influence outcomes of sex. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Article
Teenage love is embedded in ideologies of gender and routine practices of subordination which produce gender inequalities. This Perspective examines the importance the local constructions of gender and the ideologies of love as expressed by young coloured working-class teenage women in Wentworth. Focus group interviews with six participants aged 16–17 years old, and from a predominantly coloured community in Durban, demonstrated the ways in which love and desire interlock with social circumstances. From the data it was evident that whilst there are young women who are complicit in accepting gender inequalities, there is also an emergence of young coloured teenagers with agency, rejecting male dominance. Teenage girls who reject abusive partners, exercise agency and choice, even though they run the risk of losing their boyfriends in the process. There is a need in the South African context to study young teenage women, in specific contexts to understand their relationships, loves, struggles and their vulnerabilities and thus through research, empower young women to resist the gender inequalities that lead to violence and HIV infection. This Perspective seeks to highlight the importance of research in working-class contexts with young women to inform gender violence intervention programmes.
Article
While some literature has explored women's sexual satisfaction and, to a lesser degree, women's faking orgasm experiences, little research has examined the context and conditions around women's best and most memorable orgasms. This paper utilised thematic analysis of qualitative data from a community sample of 20 women in the USA (mean age = 34 years, SD = 13.35 years) from a wide range of racial, socioeconomic, and sexual identity backgrounds to illuminate their experiences with fake or pretend orgasms, and with their best orgasms. While faking orgasm narratives reflected themes of wanting to reinforce a partner's sexual skills, strategically ending sexual interactions, and suppressing feelings of abnormality and shame, best orgasm experiences showcased the power of interpersonal connection, the joys of masturbation and other non-penile-vaginal intercourse behaviours, and the significance of 'transformative embodiment'. Implications for the relative failures of (hetero)sex, particularly in the context of gendered power imbalances, along with the importance of deconstructing the sexually 'functional' or 'dysfunctional' woman are explored.
Article
The rich literature focusing on adolescents’ consumption of popular media often focuses on sexual content and the various messages about sex and sexuality available to youth. However, one particular concept that has received little scholarly attention is media messages about sexual desire among young people, especially teen girls. What messages about teen girls’ sexual desire are available for youth in popular media? The following paper explores this question through qualitative content analysis of 130 scenes from 34 popular films featuring teen characters in lead and supporting roles between 2000 and 2009. Findings indicate that such films convey three primary messages about teen girls’ sexual desire: desire is unspoken, only “bad girls” verbalize desire, and expressing desire results in negative consequences. My analyses and discussion are informed by the sexual scripting framework and by critical feminist social thought.
Article
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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The power of compulsory heterosexuality regulates the sexuality of adolescent lesbians as strongly as it does their heterosexual peers. Marked with a sexual(ized) identity, young Southern lesbians in this life history study made claim to moral high ground by consistently identifying with the hegemonic good girl construct and by participating in the naming of women whose sexual behavior demonstrated a disregard for the “rules.” The good girl/bad girl, the virgin/slut binaries, played significant roles in their identity claims, in their relationships, and in their choices of friendships. Personal self-control (“just kissing”) is seen by these young women as admirable and sluts are seen as dangerous women who harm others and themselves. This article explores the marking of sluts and too experienced women in the life stories of White Southern adolescent lesbians and the continued social controls imposed on adolescent female sexuality through the devaluing of women's sexual agency.
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When examining the experiences of adolescent girls, a study into the presumptions teachers have regarding female adolescent sexuality is a very important aspect to explore. This article presents the findings from a study we conducted with eleven middle- and high school teachers in a southeastern state from both rural and urban districts. In-depth interviews were conducted to determine how their experiences and perceptions impact their understanding of the emerging sexuality of students in their classrooms. Several findings emerged, including that girls continue to be placed in contradictory positions concerning sexuality, that adverse sexual labels continue to serve as a means of sexual harassment that many teachers do not recognize, and that perceptions of sexuality and acceptable behavior remain deeply embedded in race and class issues.
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This article argues that the notion of the `sexualization of culture' is too general to be a useful conceptual tool. The article has two main objectives. First, it seeks to interrogate the notion of `sexualization' as a way of understanding the proliferation of sexually explicit imagery within contemporary advertising. Rather than taking up a position `for' or `against' `sexualization' (in the familiar way), it seeks to open up the notion in order to explore the diverse practices that are commonly grouped together under this heading. Using advertising as an example, it argues that `sexualization' is far from being a singular or homogenous process, that different people are `sexualized' in different ways and with different meanings — and indeed that many remain excluded from what has been called the `democratization of desire' operating in visual culture. Secondly, the article develops a feminist intersectional analysis to critically read some of the different ways in which advertising might be said to be sexualized. It looks at three different and contrasting, but easily recognizable `figures' within contemporary advertising: the good-looking male `sixpack', the sexually agentic heterosexual `midriff' and the `hot lesbian', usually intertwined with her beautiful double or Other. The aim is to highlight the point that sexualization does not operate outside of processes of gendering, radicalization and classing, and works within a visual economy that remains profoundly ageist and heteronormative. The article argues that an attention to differences is crucial to understanding the phenomena, practices and scopic regimes that are often lumped together under the heading `equalization of culture'.
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This article examines the ways in which forces of patriarchy, along with capitalism, in constructing women, continue to play a significant role in shaping adolescent experiences of sexuality and conceptions of relationships. Based on a qualitative textual analysis of 875 letters written to the advice column of Teen Magazine, this article begins by reporting on some of the concerns and issues of sexuality, gender identity, and relationships facing preteen and teenage women in the 1990s. It is argued in this article that during early adolescence the power and the contradictions of patriarchy and capitalism, in shaping what are seen as most private—an adult sexual identity—are most apparent and identifiable. It is in listening to and hearing the voices and experiences of young women that we can begin to understand how teenage women are shaped as sexual beings in a culture of patriarchy.
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Au Etats-Unis, les immigres Philippins resistent a differentes formes de discrimination a travers l'affirmation de certaines specificites culturelles. Par exemple, la chastete des femmes avant le mariage est presentee comme une resistance au modele de la societe dominante blanche americaine, mais ceci se fait au prix de l'autonomie des femmes et renforce le pouvoir patriarcal dans ces communautes
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This is a report on the research design and findings of a 23-year longitudinal study of the impact of intrafamilial sexual abuse on female development. The conceptual framework integrated concepts of psychological adjustment with theory regarding how psychobiological factors might impact development. Participants included 6- to 16-year-old females with substantiated sexual abuse and a demographically similar comparison group. A cross-sequential design was used and six assessments have taken place, with participants at median age 11 at the first assessment and median age 25 at the sixth assessment. Mothers of participants took part in the early assessments and offspring took part at the sixth assessment. Results of many analyses, both within circumscribed developmental stages and across development, indicated that sexually abused females (on average) showed deleterious sequelae across a host of biopsychosocial domains including: earlier onsets of puberty, cognitive deficits, depression, dissociative symptoms, maladaptive sexual development, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal attenuation, asymmetrical stress responses, high rates of obesity, more major illnesses and healthcare utilization, dropping out of high school, persistent posttraumatic stress disorder, self-mutilation, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders diagnoses, physical and sexual revictimization, premature deliveries, teen motherhood, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. Offspring born to abused mothers were at increased risk for child maltreatment and overall maldevelopment. There was also a pattern of considerable within group variability. Based on this complex network of findings, implications for optimal treatments are elucidated. Translational aspects of extending observational research into clinical practice are discussed in terms that will likely have a sustained impact on several major public health initiatives.