Pleasure, pressure and power: Some contradictions of gendered sexuality

Holland, Janet; Ramazanoglu, Caroline; Sharpe, Sue and Thomson, Rachel (1992). Pleasure, pressure and power: Some contradictions of gendered sexuality. Sociological Review, 40(4) pp. 645–674.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.1992.tb00406.x

Abstract

The AIDS epidemic has encouraged public discussion of safer sex, but heterosexual young women have to negotiate sexual relationships with men in situations in which sex is defined largely in terms of men's needs and which lack notions of a positive female sexuality or female desires. Analysis of data from the Women, Risk and AIDS Project is interpreted to show both the range of pressures on young women to engage in sexual practices which are risky, violent or not pleasurable, but also the possibilities for young women to empower themselves in sexual relationships. Women's control over sexual safety is undermined by the dominance of male sexuality and women's compliance in satisfying men's desires. Empowerment is a contradictory and contested process requiring both critical reflection (intellectual empowerment) and the transforming of sexual experiences (experiential empowerment), but some young women are able to put into practice ways of negotiating safe and pleasurable sexual encounters with men.

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