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Understanding young women’s experiences of self-affirming sexualities Hurtig-Mitchell, R. Joss

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to enhance the current understanding of young women's experience of self-affirming sexuality. Both a feminist social constructionist paradigm and a phenomenological qualitative paradigm were utilized to explore and describe the social context and personal experience of women between the ages of 25 and 30 who experience their sexuality as an affirming aspect of their lives. A deconstruction of the dominant discourse of women's sexuality provided the contextualization to understand this experience. Phenomenological interviews with 7 young women (ages 25 to 30) provided in-depth and detailed descriptions of young women's experiences of self-affirming sexuality. The question guiding these interviews was: What is the meaning and experience of self-affirming sexuality for young women? These interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed using Colaizzi's (1978) seven-step method for thematic analysis of phenomenological data. Within the women's experiences of self-affirming sexuality a common process and four common themes, with sub-themes emerged. The women described a journey towards self-affirming sexuality, experiencing integrity of self, finding a sense of agency in sexuality, a sense of connection through sexuality, and experiencing celebration in sexuality. These themes were compared with the dominant discourse to understand how the participant's marginalized experiences of self-affirming sexuality reflect and/or resist dominant male defined constructions of sexuality. The implications of the themes, and their comparison with the dominant discourse are discussed in terms of future research and counselling.

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