University of Hertfordshire

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'I'm a sex kitten, aren't I...': Relocating Agency and Pleasure in Older Women's Narratives about Sex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Angela Meah
  • Jenny Hockey
  • Victoria Robinson
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-71
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Feminist Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2011


This article draws on data collected as part of a two-year funded study concerning the making of modern heterosexuality in the East Yorkshire region of England. The starting point for our family-based empirical project has been to problematise feminist theorising that has conceptualised heterosexuality as a monolithic and static category in which women (and men) are denied agency. Via participants' nuanced accounts of being and becoming heterosexual, we identify the existence of a multiplicity of heterosexualities and begin to appreciate differences in meaning and experiences, acknowledging the creative capacity of some of our women participants to subvert the structural conditions they are assumed to be subordinated to. Sexuality and sexual practice have long been argued to be the cornerstone of women's subordination, and our data are laden with examples of mothers, daughters and grand-daughters 'giving in' to male sexual desires. But these were not the only stories. This paper focuses on the experiences of women, now aged 50+, who spoke of sex not only as pleasurable but also as something they actively pursued, both as young women and in their later years. In recognising a diversity of heterosexual experiences, this allows for a more inclusive feminist politics which might speak to a wider group of women than previously.

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