"I'm Not One of Those Girls": Boundary-Work and the Sexual Double Standard in a Liberal Hookup Context

by Eivind Grip Fjær,  Willy Pedersen and Sveinung Sandberg

Citation

Fjaer, Eivind ; Pedersen, Willy ; Sandberg, Sveinung. "I'm Not One of Those Girls": Boundary-Work and the Sexual Double Standard in a Liberal Hookup Context. Gender & Society, Dec 2015, Vol.29(6), p.960

ISSN: 08912432; E-ISSN: 15523977

Abstract

Sexual morality is not keeping up with the new sexual practices of young people, even in cultures oriented toward gender equality. The Norwegian high school graduation celebration constitutes an exceptionally liberal context for sexual practices.

Many of the 18-year-old participants in this three-week-long celebration engage in "hookup" activities, involving kissing, fondling, and sexual intercourse. Through an analysis of qualitative interviews with 25 women and 16 men, we argue that while they avoided overt slut-shaming, the morally abject position of the "slut" was still sustained by implication.

The young women drew symbolic boundaries against anonymous other women who failed to value safety, hygiene, and self-control. This boundary-work was combined with declarations of tolerance of hookup practices, reflecting a sexually liberal culture geared toward gender equality.

That young women who hooked up also drew boundaries against "other" women indicates a lack of alternative gender beliefs that allow young women to positively associate with hooking up. The young men also drew symbolic boundaries in their talk about sex, but enjoyed more freedom in their moral positioning. Although the liberal context was evident, the gendered difference in sexual boundary-work may contribute to the persistence of a sexual double standard among young People.

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Published Sep. 22, 2016 1:35 PM - Last modified Sep. 22, 2016 1:58 PM