Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 685–705 | Cite as

“Bad Girls” Say No and “Good Girls” Say Yes: Sexual Subjectivity and Participation in Undesired Sex During Heterosexual College Hookups

  • Heather Hensman KettreyEmail author
Original Paper


Young people’s sexuality is often discursively constructed within the confines of a masculine/feminine binary that minimizes young women’s sexual subjectivity (i.e., desire, pleasure, and agency) while taking young men’s subjectivity for granted. Accordingly, young women who acknowledge themselves as sexual subjects are constructed as “bad girls” who incite males’ purportedly uncontrollable desire and, thus, invite undesired sexual attention. However, there is reason to hypothesize that young women who view themselves as sexual subjects may be less likely than other women to engage in undesired sexual activity (i.e., sex that their partners desire, but they do not desire for themselves). In this study, I used data from the Online College Social Life Survey (N = 7255) to explore relationships between two measures of sexual subjectivity (i.e., pleasure prioritization and sexual agency) and college women’s participation in undesired sexual activity during hookups (i.e., performance of undesired sexual acts to please a partner and succumbing to verbal pressure for intercourse). Logistic regression analyses suggest that pleasure prioritization and sexual agency are associated with lower odds of performing undesired sexual acts to please a partner—and sexual agency is associated with lower odds of succumbing to verbal pressure for intercourse. These findings point to the importance of sexuality education that includes discussions of women’s sexual subjectivity.


Hookups Undesired sex Sexual subjectivity 



This research was made possible by financial support from the Vanderbilt University College of Arts and Science Social Science Dissertation Fellowship. I would like to thank Laura M. Carpenter for her valuable input and support throughout the duration of this project as well as Tony N. Brown, Holly J. McCammon, and Deborah L. Tolman for their comments on earlier versions of this paper.


This study was funded by the Vanderbilt University College of Arts and Science Social Science Dissertation Fellowship.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Peabody Research InstituteVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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