392378.pdf (25.41 MB)
Download file

Pleasure and resistance?: feminism, heterosexuality and the media

Download (25.41 MB)
posted on 06.12.2010, 11:01 authored by Sara-Jane Finlay
Feminist theory and research has made a distinction between heterosexuality as a practice and heterosexuality as an institution and the line between the two is an area of confusion and contradiction. Discussions have been hampered by an unnecessary binary that hinders and limits theorising, working to silence the debates from either side, produce unnecessary divisions within feminism and inhibit the development of links between theory and practice. In examining heterosexuality as either an institution or a practice, it has been constructed as dangerous or pleasurable, victimising or agentic, oppressive or liberating, social or sexual. Missing between these two is a link that would suggest how these liberating activities challenge the heterosexual institution or how the analysis of the institution can make a material impact on women's sexual relationships. Women who identify as feminist and heterosexual are situated at the intersection of these two discourses where heterosexuality as an institution is defined as dangerous and oppressive, and heterosex as a practice is seen as pleasurable and liberating. To consider the intersection of institution and practice, the research asked 40 self-identified heterosexual feminists, between the ages of 19 and 68, about their sexual practice in the light both of feminist theorising around heterosexuality and its construction in the media. Taking the media as an institution that may both sustain and reinforce a discourse of heterosexuality, the research explores the mediation of women's heterosexuality and the potential for a feminist practice of resistance through the pleasurable consumption of media images. Employing a broad analysis of the media the thesis adopts a multi-methodological approach in the range of data collected, the methods employed and the analysis undertaken. It addresses three aims. First, to contribute to the wider literature within feminism. about heterosexuality and sexual practice. Second, to understand the role of the media in formulating feminist and heterosexual identities. Third, to consider the use and application of a range of different methods for a feminist cultural politics. Drawing on data from qualitative and quantitative media reviews, a questionnaire study; and diaries, focus groups and telephone interviews with the participants, I discuss the construction of heterosexuality and feminism, and the women's talk about their sexual practice.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Sara-Jane Finlay

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

EThOS Persistent ID