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4 ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall Deciding How/Who to Be in Hetero-Relationships It’s just never not there. If I want to go ahead with having sex or expressing what I want, I’m thinking, “Wow, what will he think of the fact that I know what I want, or know that I want it at all?” I wonder if he’ll lose respect for me, if he’ll think I’m too experienced and sort of slutty or something. But then I’m also thinking at the same time, “What if I act like I’m unsure of myself, like if I’m not acting sexual enough? Then he’s going to think I’m inexperienced or frigid or a baby or something. Or maybe he’ll feel like I’m letting him down, like I’ll hurt his feelings.” I mean, sometimes I know I want it, sometimes I know I don’t, and sometimes I’m not sure. But I never know how to act, because I never know what he’s going to think of me. It’s like either way, I can’t win, so I’m constantly monitoring how I should be, and either way, I feel like I lose. I mean, I can either be seen as a baby or a whore. That’s not a very comfortable decision. —Louise, 21, “hetero,” “white” I feel like a baby that I’m confused a lot of the time, but there’s nowhere for me to go to talk about it. If I talked to my family, they’d be so disappointed and worried that I was even thinking about these things. And if I talked to my boyfriend, he’d think I was unhappy with him or hung up or something. And if I talked with my friends, they’d probably think I was just weird or immature, because everybody else seems to have it all worked out. So I don’t know what to think. I don’t know who to be, really, because I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t, sort of thing. I can’t sort out what I want, because it’s hard to separate from what’s expected of me. But the thing is, all those things that different people expect of me, they’re all a part of me. I just don’t know which one to choose. —Darla, 19, “heterosexual,” “white” THESE WOMEN’S DILEMMAS are not unique. Though Louise and Darla state their cases particularly vividly, they describe a struggle shared by their peers in this study—the struggle to make sense of their hetero-relations within a multitude of contradictory expectations and potentially harsh judgments about their status as young adults and their character as women. Attempting to find or create an appropriate stance in their relationships with men, they “monitor” themselves and try to figure out who they are, or “who to be,” as though gazing into a psychological mirror to find an image of themselves that is both personally satisfying and acceptable to those around them. Staring into the mirror, however, each finds her own image composed of a collage of other faces, each with competing messages as to who she should be and how she must present herself. There are her friends, family, and educators. The Religious Right and her Cosmo magazine both stare back at her. Her women’s studies class sits in the mirror , as do all the partners with whom she has been involved. Each image speaks loudly and with great urgency, and each has conflicting formulae for how she must be. Looking for her “self” in the mirror, she is inseparable from the audiences that both watch and advise from within her head. Derived from the participants’ early lessons in hetero-relations, this collage of faces in the mirror reflects and gives compelling voice to the eight cultural discourses teased out in the previous chapter. Absent from the mirror (or, at best, hovering at the margins) are any whispers of a discourse of male accountability and a discourse of female pleasure without penalties. While these two discourses may have begun to find their 80 ❙ Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall way into other cultural spaces (such as feminist theory and politics), they have yet to make it into these women’s early hetero-relational experiences . Denied any socially sanctioned discourses for sharing the burden of sexual responsibility with men, these women...

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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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