Published March 8, 2019
Congratulations to Associate Professor Laina Y. Bay-Cheng on the publication of her article, "Agency is everywhere, but agency is not enough: A conceptual analysis of young women’s sexual agency."
Bay-Cheng, L. Y. (2019). Agency is everywhere, but agency is not enough: A conceptual analysis of young women’s sexual agency. Journal of Sex Research: Annual Review of Sex Research Special Issue.
Through a conceptual analysis of sexual agency, I consider the limitations and distortions of what we typically recognize as agency and whom we recognize as agents. I argue that the dominant perspective of sexual agency as an outward performance of an internal attribute both: underestimates its presence, blinding us to the many manifestations of agency, including among girls imagined to have none; and overestimates its potency, insinuating that individual will is enough to fend off sexual vulnerability forged by social injustice. Instead, I recommend a theoretical lens that permits us to see girls’ sexual agency as a matter of fact, evident even among those who are compelled by social and material conditions to exercise it through sexual compliance, compromise, and concession. Accepting sexual agency as ubiquitous among young women can help reorient attention and action away from changing girls and instead toward changing the pervasive, systemic threats to their well-being, sexual and otherwise.