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“Orgasm Machines, Even Stevens and Sexy Monsters”: Accounting for Straight Sex

McLuckie, Cassandra Joanna (2016) “Orgasm Machines, Even Stevens and Sexy Monsters”: Accounting for Straight Sex. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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“Heterosex” occupies a contradictory position in academic feminism. While much research has been done through the decades, the substantive research focus, and the theoretical approaches used to conceptualise and explain it, have remained more limited. This has produced significant empirical gaps and limitations, and while feminists have remarked on this for some time (Albury, 2008, Segal, 1994), it has not been seriously addressed. The diversity of knowledge production has continued to remain “strangely repressed” (Smart, 1996). This thesis represents an intervention in relation to this landscape. Firstly, it identifies and traces the methodological and theoretical limitations within the contemporary and historical body of work on heterosex, and through this develops an alternative conceptual framework and analytical ground, offering the possibility to render it more expansively. Secondly, through the accounts of 27 middle and working-class heterosexual men and women, it theorises heterosex and provides insight into its experience clustered along four areas. These areas are informed by theoretical work on phenomenology, intersubjectivity and ethics, and strongly account for experiential aspects of heterosex. The research findings highlight the significance of practice and learning in determining how heterosex is experienced: participants asynchronously develop capacities, knowledges and skills that are indivisibly connected to the experiential over time. This then also constitutes subjectivity as sedimented through time, yet, as able to change. Rather than gender or class providing the primary explanatory ground for the experience of heterosex, age (youth) and in/experience figure as the most salient variables in how participants’ make sense of heterosex at any given point in time. Crucially also, women and men’s experiences of heterosex often challenge the portrayal offered by much of the feminist/queer literature on heterosex. The thesis thus urges for further interrogation of the limits of focus/approach for supposed “proper” political/ethical feminist research on heterosex, and for a proliferation of knowledges on this research object. It concludes that heterosex cannot be adequately captured through categories of gender or normativity alone - as commonly foundational to much feminist and queer work - and that feminist “disciplinarity” (Wiegman, 2012) enacts limitations on the possibilities for knowledge production on heterosex today.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Feminist theory, heterosex,sex as social practice, phenomenology, intersubjectivity, learning, sexual subjectivity, sexual ethics.
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > University of Leeds Research Centres and Institutes > Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr CJ McLuckie
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2016 09:37
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2016 09:37
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/13504

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