Turning the light on : the negotiation and representation of condom use

Harvey, Laura (2013). Turning the light on : the negotiation and representation of condom use. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d5a2


This thesis examines how a diverse group of participants in England make sense of condom use, exploring how talk about condoms relates to the operation of and resistance to social inequalities, and examining how public health discourse is taken up and reformulated in everyday talk about sex. It takes a feminist, discursive rhetorical approach, combining this with an exploration of how particular discourses about condom use can be understood to be ideological. The thesis draws on data from surveys, interviews and a media case study of The Jeremy Kyle Show: situating a fine-grained analysis of the discursive construction of condom lise within the context of a broader understanding of the operation of power in the everyday. In addition, the work develops the use of private diaries as a tool for interview research about intimate life.

The research explores how talk about condom use can work to construct subjects, developing the concept 'safer sexual subjectivity'. The discursive construction of ' safer subjects' was found to work in complex ways with existing social categories such as 'race', class and gender, with particular subjects marked as more 'risky' than others. Talk about condom use reproduced, resisted and reworked norms of gender, sex and relationships. New norDis of gendered responsibility positioned skillful condom use as a strategy of selfcare and regulation of neoliberal sexual subjectivity. Public health discourse was taken up and reworked by participants, producing new forms of intimacy and desire.

The thesis concludes that the negotiation of condom use is not simply an in the moment activity that happens during sex, or a 'healthy choice' made by rational actors. Talk about condom use serves rhetorical purposes in positioning people and communities, categorising relationships and developing norms about sexual practices and gender identities.

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