Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 139–156 | Cite as

Let’s (Not) Talk about Sex: The Gender of Sexual Discourse

  • Beth MontemurroEmail author
  • Jennifer Bartasavich
  • Leann Wintermute
Original Paper


Although much attention is given to women’s sexuality, sex is often an uncomfortable or avoided topic. There are taboos about women openly discussing their own sexual behavior, sexual desire, or sexual problems in large part because sex talk is masculinized. Based on in-depth interviews with a diverse group of ninety-five women aged 20–68, we examine gendered discourses about sexuality. We find that most women are uncomfortable talking about sex in general and fear judgment for communicating desire or talking about sexual behavior. Yet, when women construct sex-related conversations in a feminine way, such as a means of supporting a friend or emotional bonding, they are more open to sex talk. Furthermore, we see women’s talk or avoidance of sex talk as compliant with interaction norms and gendered face-saving behavior for themselves and others.


Sexuality Talk Gender Masculinity Gendered discourse Face work 



The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the Penn State Abington Career Development Professorship, as well as the Rubin Fund, which provided funding for data collection and analysis expenses.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beth Montemurro
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer Bartasavich
    • 1
  • Leann Wintermute
    • 1
  1. 1.Penn State AbingtonAbingtonUSA

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