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‘Late-Blooming’ Lesbians and Incomplete Views of Fluid Sexuality

23 Jul

I read a hugely disturbing article [paywalled] in The Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago on ‘late-blooming’ lesbians. There’s a very similar article from the Sunday Telegraph that’s freely available here. Here’s a brief summary of the Times’s reporting of studies into women’s fluid sexuality:

Researchers have found that many women switch their preferences once they pass the age of 30 because of a biological “fluidity” in their sexual orientation that is much more common than in men.

The phenomenon, whose discovery has taken researchers by surprise, suggests lesbianism could be more widespread than previously thought. While many women could be future lesbians without knowing it, others may already have switched but be concealing their sexuality to keep their families together…

Most textbooks assume that, as with men, women’s sexual preferences are partly genetic and become fixed in the teens and early twenties, with relatively few changing sexuality later in life…

a series of studies have shown that in reality women’s sexual orientation may become more fluid as they grow older, with many developing lesbian or bisexual tendencies after the age of 30…

Researchers believe the phenomenon of fluid sexuality is far more common in women than men. “Women have a uniquely female potential for periodic shifts in sexuality over time,” said Christan Moran, a researcher at Southern Connecticut State University…

for many women, love and desire are not heterosexual or homosexual but fluid concepts, changing as women grow older, changing their social groups and relationships.

I’m certain a lot of people will view these findings not as evidence of women ‘developing lesbian tendencies’ in later life but of women who have always been lesbians finally feeling comfortable enough to express their desires publically.

What struck me most about the article though (and by extension the studies) was the way it repeatedly set up women’s fluidity in opposition to men’s stablility. It continually referred to how women’s sexuality is fluid in a way men’s isn’t. It almost felt like it was saying “yes some women will become lesbians in later life, but wives don’t worry, it won’t happen to your husband and don’t worry men either, it definitely won’t happen to you.”

As the article acknowledges, it is simply inconceivable that genetic makeup is the sole reason why some women express a variety of sexualities throughout their lives. Similarly, non-genetic factors play a huge role in some women’s repression of same-sex desires. As one of the researchers Christan Moran points out in the Sunday Telegraph’s article:

many women who develop lesbian feelings in later life refuse to “come out” for fear of society’s reaction…

To leave a heterosexual marriage in favour of lesbian identity is to abdicate enormous and undeniable privilege.

This is a perfectly acceptable position which could be drawn out to build a theory of how women come to express their sexuality or sexualities. One possible theory stemming from this could see women as having a genetic makeup which offers a certain range of sexual identities and a myriad of environmental conditions allow them to be aware of or feel comfortable expressing various positions within that range. This would take into account the environmental as well as the genetic in the forming of sexuality and presumes neither a predetermined outcome nor a sexuality completely free of genetic influence. The problem is that it’s apparently unthinkable to these researchers that this theory, or anything similar, could be applied to men.

Moran and others take it for granted that it’s men’s genes which are responsible for their apparently stable sexuality. If though we are to accept that women’s sexuality is unstable, it must be problematic to see men as necessarily of a single, stable and essential sexuality. It’s strange and hypocritical to hold the position that genes don’t determine everything in the case of women’s sexuality and simultaneously to assume that genes are the only factor in men’s sexuality.

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Constructions of Fathers in New Labour’s Discourse

20 Jun

My first post on this blog was a brainstorm of ideas for my undergraduate dissertation. I eventually settled on the third option; an analysis of how fathers and fatherhood have been treated in UK public policy. The full version of the dissertation is available here. I’m considering writing a journalistic version of it to make it easier to understand.

This is the abstract and should let you know the gist of the work and whether you want to read it or not: Continue reading

Covert Surveillance and the Digital Economy Act 2010

20 Jun

I wrote an essay titled ‘The Disciplining of Behaviour in an Online Panopticon: A Foucauldian Perspective on the Digital Economy Act 2010′ which is available here. I’m considering writing a journalistic version of the essay to make it more accessible.

Here are some excerpts from the introduction to this essay:

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Upcoming Academic Posts

10 May

I have a couple of things that I’d like to publish on here but I’d rather not run any risk of being accused of plagiarism. I’ll make them public in June after my degree is finalised. They’re on New Labour’s constructions of fatherhood in public policy and an application of Bentham’s Panopticon prison as a metaphor for the measures put into place in the Digital Economy Act 2010. Contact me if you want more information on this before I post about them in full.

Dissertation on Masculinities : Some ideas out loud

17 Sep

One of the purposes for this blog is going to be to think out loud on subjects I’m writing about in my degree. In part it’s a kind of experiment to see if that helps to solidify what I want to say in my final pieces of work and might assist in verbal explanations of what I’m working on.  It also means I can learn to write in a slightly different style to what I’m used to. Writing academic essays is in many ways, not exactly the best preparation for writing in the rest of life. Continue reading

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