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Desiring to be desired: A discursive analysis of women's responses to the 'raunch culture' debates

Thompson, Laura (2012) Desiring to be desired: A discursive analysis of women's responses to the 'raunch culture' debates. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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In recent years, an explicitly sexualised style of femininity has become more visible in Western media and societies, accompanied by the idea that women can freely choose to use this mode of sexuality to signify their empowerment. This emergence of ‘raunch culture’ has sparked significant debates within the feminist literature as to how female agency should be conceptualised in a context wherein the seemingly continued objectification of women has come to be widely (re)interpreted as reflecting female empowerment and choice. This study seeks to contribute to these debates through a discursive analysis of talk produced in a series of focus groups with seventeen women, in which they discussed the raunch culture phenomenon and some of the related feminist arguments that have been raised. Whilst the participants frequently drew on the notions of ‘confidence/self-esteem’, ‘choice’ and ‘doing it for yourself’ as a defence for women’s participation in raunch culture, an underlying ambivalence and sense of discomfort about the quest for ‘empowerment’ via raunchiness was detected in their talk, though this was only rarely expressed as an explicit social critique of the gendered aspects of their lives. These findings are discussed in relation to the ways in which the participants’ use of these discourses allows them to position themselves as autonomous and freed from gendered constraints, as well as where these discourses become insufficient.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology
Supervisor(s): Donaghue, Ngaire
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