What is good sex? : young people, sexual pleasure and sexual health services

McGeeney, Ester (2014). What is good sex? : young people, sexual pleasure and sexual health services. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d5b0


This thesis investigates young people's understandings and experiences of 'good sex' and sexual pleasure, documenting the resources young people use to make sense of these meanings in the context of their everyday lives and relationships. The study uses a situated approach to explore the methodological possibilities for researching sexual pleasure with a diverse group of young people in one urban location and to examine the ways in which pleasure is embedded, mediated and gendered in young people's sexual cultures. The research is used to contribute to debates about the inclusion of pleasure in sexual health services for young people and make suggestions for future research/practice.

Drawing on data from survey, focus group and interview methods the thesis documents the diversity of young people's understandings of 'good sex' and sexual pleasure, suggesting that young people have access to a range of competing discursive and affective frameworks for making distinctions between what counts as 'good' and 'bad' sex. Analyses suggest that sexual meanings and values are contested and contingent on young people's shifting sex and relationship experiences and social locations. Timeliness and reciprocity emerged as key contested areas, shaped by enduring gender arrangements and participants' evolving sexual biographies.

The thesis provides a reflexive account of the practice of researching sexual pleasure with young people, reporting on each method to argue that the findings are situated, shaped by interactive and material context. The research documents the benefits of using critical feminist reflexivity to interrogate how researcher/practitioners can create safe spaces for engaging young people in work around sexual pleasure and concludes that possibilities for realising the 'pleasure project' in practice will depend on local, institutional and political context.

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