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Queering our sex lives: Listening to women's stories of sexual negotiation

Sinclair, Aimee (2015) Queering our sex lives: Listening to women's stories of sexual negotiation. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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This study focuses on women’s negotiation of sexual pleasure and engagement with their partner(s) in order to identify some of the ways women fracture heteronormativity and enhance their sexual freedom. The research design draws on feminist, qualitative approaches, influenced by Lather (1991), Reinharz (1992) and Haug (1987). Data was collected from semi-­‐structured interviews with ten women. Participants were asked to reflect on how they came to understand constraints in their sex lives, and how they have negotiated/resisted these constraints. The analysis is structured around Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and field, whilst acknowledging the fine balance required between theory and women’s everyday lived experiences.

A significant number of studies have asked young women about their understandings of sexual pleasure and negotiation living within a heteronormative world (Burkett & Hamilton 2012, Baker 2010, Powell 2008, Sieg 2007, Chung 2005, Holland et al 2003, Allen 2003, Tolman 2002, Walker 1997, Gavey 1992, Fine 1988). This study furthers this research in several ways. Firstly, the existing research is narrowly focused on the experiences of heterosexual girls and young women. I widen this focus by exploring the experiences of older women, and women with more diverse sexual orientations, who were able to reflect on their experiences and how these have changed over time and across various contexts.

Secondly, existing research has primarily analysed heteronormativity as discourse, telling us little about the ways in which sexual partners practice, negotiate and struggle over their sex lives. By taking negotiation as the focal point, I look to integrate women’s sexual understandings (‘intellectual empowerment’) with their sexual practices (‘experiential empowerment) (Holland et al 1998:12).

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Thiele, Beverly
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