“Bad Girls” Say No and “Good Girls” Say Yes: Sexual Subjectivity and Participation in Undesired Sex During Heterosexual College Hookups
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.
KeywordsHookups 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.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.
- Bogle, K. (2008). Hooking up: Sex, dating, and relationships on campus. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Collins, P. H. (2005). Black sexual politics: African Americans, gender, and the new racism. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Durham, M. G. (2008). The Lolita effect: The media sexualization of young girls and what we can do about it. New York: The Overlook Press.Google Scholar
- Egan, R. D. (2013). Becoming sexual: A critical appraisal of the sexualization of girls. Malden, MA: Polity.Google Scholar
- Elliot, S. (2012). Not my kid: What parents believe about the sex lives of their teenagers. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Espiritu, Y. L. (2007). Asian American women and men: Labor, laws, and love (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Fields, J. (2008). Risky lessons: Sex education and social inequality. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Fine, M., & McClelland, S. (2006). Sexuality education and desire: Still missing after all these years. Harvard Educational Review, 76, 297–338. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.58.1.u0468k1v2n2n8242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Flack, W. F., Jr., Daubman, K. A., Caron, M. L., Asadorian, J. A., D’Aureli, N. R., Gigliotti, S. N., et al. (2007). Risk factors and consequences of unwanted sex among university students: Hooking up, Alcohol, and stress response. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22, 139–157. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260506295354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality: An introduction. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
- Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews & other writings 1972–1977. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
- Graham, C. A., Sanders, S. A., Milhausen, R. R., & McBride, K. R. (2004). Turning on and turning off: A focus group study of factors that affect women’s sexual arousal. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 33, 527–538. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:ASEB.0000044737.62561.fd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Holland, J., Ramazanoglu, C., Sharpe, S., & Thomson, R. (1998). The male in the head: Young people, heterosexuality, and power. London: Tufnell Press.Google Scholar
- Hust, S. J. T., Marett, E. G., Ren, C., Adams, P. M., Willoughby, J. F., Lei, M., et al. (2014). Establishing and adhering to sexual consent: The association between reading magazines and college students’ sexual consent negotiation. The Journal of Sex Research, 51, 280–290. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2012.727914.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kimmel, M. (2008). Guyland: The perilous world where boys become men. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
- Lamb, S. (2001). The secret lives of girls: What good girls really do—sex play, aggression, and their guilt. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
- Phillips, L. M. (2000). Flirting with danger: Young women’s reflections on sexuality and domination. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Tolman, D. L. (2002). Dilemmas of desire: Teenage girls talk about sexuality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Wade, L., & Heldman, C. (2012). Hooking up and opting out: Negotiating sex in the first year of college. In L. M. Carpenter & J. DeLamater (Eds.), Sex for life: From virginity to Viagra, how sexuality changes throughout our lives (pp. 128–145). New York: New York University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar