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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Competent sexual agency and feminine subjectivity : how young women negotiate discourses of sexuality Wiebe, Brandy Michelle


Building upon feminist and sexual health research, this dissertation shows how the positioning of women in various discourses as somehow ‘lacking’ actually constrains what researchers are able to hear in their sexual stories. Using interviews with 26 heterosexually active young women, I seek to upset traditional approaches to understanding young women’s sexual stories and theorizing heterosexuality. To analyze the interviews, I first employ a Foucauldian-inspired discourse analysis that focuses on the power that circulates through discourses and our positioning within them. Our positioning in various discourses both enables and limits various courses of action, understandings and experiences. This power of discourse is illustrated by an emergent hybrid discourse that is apparent in young women’s sexual narratives. I discuss what I call the ‘competent feminine sexuality’ discourse and show how this discourse smoothes over contradictions between liberal and gendered discourses. Secondly, I show how psychoanalytic insights allow us to explore the processes of subjectification by which young women constitute themselves as (hetero)sexual women. Specifically, this dissertation explores processes of abjection, disavowal and ambivalence in participants’ narratives. In conclusion, the dissertation outlines the practical implications for sexual health education in Canada.

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