The Conversation

Faced with such attention, many of them have sometimes agreed to engage in sexual experiences (kissing, caressing, oral sex, sexual relations) with men without necessarily wanting to, but out of a feeling of accountability. This sense of accountability was also expressed by a few young men in same-sex relationships.

In this article, however, we choose to focus on heterosexual relationships, where this logic has emerged more markedly.

The young women met explain that, if they accepted, it is not because they cannot say no, but because they should have known that by accepting these favors, they would create sexual expectations. at their home.

Men always desirous and women always sexually available?

Sexuality, like other social practices, can be understood as a space where sexual relations materialize.

If the young women interviewed feel more indebted to sex than young men, it is because they are subject to behavioral expectations linked to a system of binary representations of sexuality called “heteronormativity”.

In this system, sex corresponds to gender and heterosexuality is the norm.

In this logic, the sexual roles of men and women are understood as being different and complementary: male sexuality is characterized by assertiveness, sexual performance, virility and sexual desire associated with physiological needs. Female sexuality, of a relational nature, is linked to affectivity and conjugality.

Several studies show that these representations are still in the majority today in our societies.

According to a French survey, 73% of French women and 59% of French men adhere to the belief that “by nature, men have more sexual needs than women”. Also according to this survey, this belief has an impact on the sexual practices of women who recognize that they are more willing to have sex without wanting to.

Research conducted in Switzerland among young people aged 26 on average reveals that 53% of the women questioned accepted sexual relations without desire.

Sex “debts”

The results of our study point in the same direction and highlight that the heteronormative order generates what can be called “sex debts”. We are interested in sexual transactions, that is to say, sexual experiences associated with a financial, material and/or symbolic exchange.

As for young women, our analyzes show that if they find themselves more often than young men accepting unwanted sexual transactionsit is because in the “order of gender”, female sexuality is posed as a “sex debt” which leads them to feel indebted to the sexual expectations of men.

However, by consenting to sexual transactions without necessarily wanting it, women confirm to men their own “sex debt”, which is that of ensuring an assertive, determined and desiring sexuality, and which sometimes leads them to show an (apparent) detachment from women’s demands.

Thus, women and men come together in the complementarity of their “sex debts”, but in a hierarchical relationship: women think they have no other choice than to offer their sexuality in response to the presumed expectations of men, to whom they confirm that they have no choice but to be desirous, sexually available and successful.

As a result, they and they reproduce, without necessarily wanting to, “the order of the genre”.

Consent: A Process of Negotiation

Sexual experiences are part of a relationship of reciprocal negotiation where, depending on the situation, everything is not settled in advance. In the case we are analyzing, the young people retain a certain freedom, which allows them to negotiate the rest of the transaction, despite the feeling of accountability that may arise.

In particular, some young women have stated that they find some advantages in these unwanted sexual relations, which can be material (accommodation, food, etc.) and/or symbolic (feeling of recognition, protection, etc.). Other young women refuse to conform to the expectations linked to their gender and adopt behaviors more associated with the male gender, for example by being assertive both verbally and in attitude or by clearly expressing their limits. and leaving little room for the implicit and misunderstandings.

However, these strategies often only have a limited effect, since they consist in changing the behavior of women, without questioning the heterosexual order within which these behaviors take place.

These results show that sexual consent is a complex process that is not reduced to saying “yes” or “no” and that “accepting” does not necessarily mean “wanting”.

Thus, the feeling of accountability reveals the logics associated with a “gender order” based on heteronormativity. However, sexual consent is not the sole responsibility of individuals, especially women, to assert their rights. Our conclusions invite us to understand sexual consent as a process of negotiation, between conformity to gender norms and the ability of individuals to negotiate.

An article published on The Conversation by Myrian Carbajal, Professor, University of Social Work, University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland (HES-SO) and Annamaria Colombo, Professor, University of Social Work Fribourg, University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland (HES -SO).

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Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a freelance writer working on news website. He contributes to Our Blog and more. Wise also works in higher ed sustainability and previously in stream restoration. He loves running, trees and hanging out with her family.

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