Published August 2, 2016
Congratulations to Associate Professor Laina Bay-Cheng and Annie Bruns (MSW ’16), on the publication of their article, "Yes, but: Young women’s views of unwanted sex at the intersection of gender and class," in Psychology of Women Quarterly.
Reflecting the wide range of consensual unwanted sexual experiences, researchers often have contrasting views of the impact of these incidents on young women. Some scholars support a normalizing view of these as fairly harmless and ordinary aspects of relationships, akin to other forms of willing compromises between partners. Other researchers problematize unwanted sexual experiences, framing them in terms of gender inequalities and detrimental effects. In the current study, we were interested in how young women themselves characterized their unwanted sexual experiences and whether these accounts varied according to a woman’s social location. We interviewed 41 young women (18–22 years old) from three groups: affluent undergraduates, low-income undergraduates, and low-income nonstudents. Almost all of the affluent undergraduates framed their unwanted sexual experiences in normalizing terms, representing such events as relatively harmless incidents and outgrowths of developmental experimentation. In contrast, the low-income students and nonstudents both articulated more ambivalent positions and were more inclined to link their experience to sources of vulnerability, including personal adversity (e.g., trauma, social, and material insecurity) and social norms and stigma. Participants’ sexual histories, life circumstances, and standpoints at the intersection of gender and class were reflected in their experiences of unwanted sex, reinforcing that contextualized analyses and interventions are essential to advancing women’s sexual rights and well-being.
Bay-Cheng, L. Y., & Bruns, A. E. (2016). Yes, but: Young women’s views of unwanted sex at the intersection of gender and class. Psychology of Women Quarterly.