(Wo) men on top? Postfeminist contradictions in young women’s sexual narratives

Alexandra Rome, Aliette Lambert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Feminized sexual consumption has gained increasing legitimacy in the marketplace. Despite calls for critical, feminist perspectives, extant research in marketing continues to prioritize its emancipatory implications. In this article, we draw on the cultural theory of “postfeminism” to critically analyze the sexual narratives of young women. Tightly bound with neoliberal ethics, a postfeminist orientation encourages women—purported to have achieved equality thanks to past feminist activism—to work on, invest in, and manage their sexual lives. This discourse manifests in women’s sexual and intimate experiences in two key ways: first, through their attempts to establish authority and control in their relationships, an endeavor thwarted by neoliberal and patriarchal logics; and second, through an implicit submissive sexual positioning that privileges masculine meanings of sexual pleasure. These findings suggest an inherent contradiction between participants’ understanding of themselves as free, able, and equal, and the constraining, subjugating experiences shaping their relationships and (sexual) lives. Our key contribution to feminist critique and theorizing is to illustrate how postfeminist discourses operate to mask and deny oppressive patriarchal discourses, which paradoxically increases their strength under the guise of female emancipation and consumer choice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-525
Number of pages25
JournalMarketing Theory
Volume20
Issue number4
Early online date1 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

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