"Coming ready or not" : women's accounts of negotiating intersubjectivity within heterosex : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand
This research examined the discourses that women rely on when talking about heterosexual sex and how they position both themselves and their sexual partners. These positions are produced through dominant sexual discourses that function to maintain and reproduce a sexual double standard for women, and to reinforce existing patriarchal power structures. However, these subject/object positions also draw on multiple intersecting discourses. This research examines women’s attempts at negotiating space within sexual encounters to enable the opening of spaces for resistance and for challenging the normative and oppressive discourses that produce them. Analysis of conversational interviews with eight women was conducted to interrogate the dominant discourses involved in the construction, maintenance and change of meaning within normative discourse over time. I identified where these discourses were integrated or worked in tandem to produce sexual subjectivities and areas of contradiction or inconsistences which were accounted for as the women negotiated meaning. I explored points of resistance and repositioning within each discourse. A feminist poststructuralist epistemology was utilised with a focus on social power relations to enable the exploration of the patriarchal power structures that regulates women’s subjectivity and the social function of the sexual double standard and heteronormativity in maintaining patriarchal dominance and the social status quo. It also enabled examination of the resistances exercised by the women towards the sexual double standard, the coital imperative and the absence of desire. Analysis included examination of the ways in which the women located themselves and their partners in relation to sexual encounters and orgasm. Key findings were; that women’s sexuality is still represented as a response to men’s sexuality with a clear double standard still in play; that sex for most of the women was very important to the overall relationship; that orgasm was a choice and faking had its uses; that pleasure did not mean orgasm; that having sex with multiple partners could enable pleasurable encounters; that sexual encounters did not necessarily involve penetration; and that women have very clear desires. My analysis suggests that regardless of social movements towards acknowledging women’s sexuality, disciplinary power continues to regulate women’s sexual encounters and an acknowledgment of women’s sexual desire remains absent within the norms of heterosexuality. Without articulated desires, women struggle with burdens of masculine imposed sexuality, negative social sanctions and negative or unwanted sexual experiences. This research highlights the importance of talking openly about women’s desire and to open up a space within sexual education for pleasure and relationship talk and within everyday social discussions that enables both a language and position from which women may assert their own independent desires. The points of resistance identified within women’s talk along with the position of future focused desiring women may enable new counter narratives and therefore more pleasurable sexual experiences for women to occur.