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■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ Preface I recently came upon a lapel button that said, “What is it about ‘no’ that confuses you?” Having worked for many years on combating violence against women, I rushed to buy the pin, delighting in the question as I imagined it posed to men. With one simple rhetorical question, this pin seemed to capture the messages I had learned and tried so hard to communicate as a feminist researcher, teacher, and advocate. It pointed out that of course “no means no and yes means yes.” And it asked smugly, “Why don’t men understand this?” “Perfect,” I thought, “clear and to the point!” But as I waited in line to make my purchase, the pin’s words began to take on other meanings. After I initially imagined a male audience, it occurred to me that this same question, when posed to women, is neither straightforward nor rhetorical. In fact, it is a central question that drives my work. As my attraction to this button reveals, I often feel the impulse to make clear-cut statements about women’s desires and their responses to male domination. Indeed, in a society where women’s charges of rape and harassment are still frequently met with questions about what they did to “lead men on,” it has been critical to stress to lawmakers, employers, juries , and men in general that consent and coercion are inherently distinct. Yet at the same time, having listened for many years to young women’s reflections on their own experiences, I am increasingly persuaded that, in fact, their own answers to the question, “What is it about ‘no’ that confuses you?” are often multiple, murky, and dauntingly complex. I am further persuaded that greater understandings of the apparent contradictions and ambiguities in women’s experiences are vital to a social analysis of sexuality and domination. Indeed, as I have found in my work with adolescents and young adults, even the notions of male domination and male aggression , which have long been central to feminist analyses (including my own), become problematized in light of young women’s nuanced articulations of their own stories. Although it has been politically essential to assert , simply, that “no means no and yes means yes,” it is also important to explore what is not so clear in women’s experiences of their relationships and sexualities if advocacy efforts are to effectively help young women prevent and make sense of the various manifestations of sexualized aggression in their lives. This book is intended as a step in that ongoing exploration. Based on an in-depth, qualitative study with a diverse group of young women in the northeastern United States, this book probes women’s complex understandings of sexuality and violence, as well as their development of what I call “hetero-relational subjectivities,” in a cultural context of gendered power asymmetries. By “hetero-relations” I mean the interactions , both sexual and seemingly nonsexual, that women have with men and masculinities. Hetero-relations may include serious love relationships, casual sexual encounters, nonsexual/nonromantic interactions across genders that involve elements of domination, exploitation, or coercion based on gender, and interactions that one person intends to be nonsexual/ nonromantic but into which others introduce elements of uninvited sexuality or romance. Hetero-relations include interactions that are explicitly sexualized as well as those that are more ambiguous, such as interactions between women and men in which the goal is nonsexual, but in which participants call on dynamics such as flirting to “facilitate” the interaction. Such interactions may occur at work, at school, at home, or on the street. Hetero-relations may be wanted or unwanted, delightful or painful, consensual or forced. And, as we will see, they can be all these things at once. My interest in the development of young women’s hetero-relational subjectivities involves exploring the processes by which women construct understandings of their relationships to gendered power and domination, as well as agency, through their thinking about their various relationships x ❙ Preface with men, male-centered institutions, and culture.1 I use the term “heterorelational ” rather than “hetero-sexual” because I believe that all women, regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity, are engaged in heterorelations of some sort. Certainly hetero-relationality may play a greater or lesser role in the construction of women’s subjectivities, depending on the amount and kinds of time they spend with men. But since women in a male-centered society must spend enormous amounts of energy sifting through complex...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814768150
Related ISBN
9780814766576
MARC Record
OCLC
50724089
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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