Chapter 3 explored the case study of one older woman whose lifetime had coincided with major social changes such as a broader social acceptance of birth outside marriage and a growing association between major health risks and unprotected sex. These data were located within a reflexive account of the position from which we are investigating heterosexuality. It included our political and intellectual standpoints as feminists — and their methodological implications. Working in this area inevitably raises issues of power, and related sociological questions of structure and agency — and Chapter 3 came rapidly to the question of how we might interpret material derived from conversation with someone who had set out on heterosexual married life before even the very oldest of the book’s three authors had started school. As our discussion of Jean Brown’s life history shows, it was data which revealed the taken-for-granted yet powerfully gendered patterning of the everyday. And Jean’s passage through schoolgirl bike-shed kissing, dating, marriage and motherhood exemplify the living out of an unremarkable, ‘ordinary’ heterosexual life. Yet Jean also resisted the silences and sanctions of such a life when they failed to conform to her own beliefs or to satisfy her needs. She reflected, critically, and resisted when, in her view, it was appropriate. Her agency is well evidenced — yet she exercised it in order to generate the heterosexual life which she has chosen.
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