Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Does She Want You to Open the Door? New Realities for Traditional Gendered Sexuality

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Does She Want You to Open the Door? New Realities for Traditional Gendered Sexuality

Article excerpt

Since the 1990s, popular culture narratives assert that North America has entered a postfeminist era (Hall & Rodriguez, 2003). These narratives profess that feminism is obsolete and its support has dwindled. Yet struggles around achieving gender equity persist, as demonstrated by the recent "Me Too" movement, conflicts about same sex marriage, and battles over abortion accessibility (Andaya & Mishtal, 2016; Lee, 2018; Shultz & Shultz, 2016). Further, the social movements associated with transformation around gender and sexuality (e.g., feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, sexual revolution, civil rights) have not been equivalent across genders (Gerson, 2009). Expectations have broadened for women; however, there has been less change around men's roles. Issues surrounding gender are far from resolved, existing within a mix of historical inequality and transition toward greater equity.

In this historical context, young people face confusing contextual norms. Should a man hold a door open for a woman? Is that chivalrous or patronizing? Is it appropriate on a date, but not at work? Should a woman express sexual freedom, or will sexual behavior negate marriage possibilities? These choices represent a conflict between a desire for the security afforded by enacting traditional gender norms versus a desire to embrace the greater gender freedom that recent social movements advocate (Rogers, 2008; Turner, 1990). Awareness of such conflicts motivated this exploratory qualitative study. We used the signifier traditional for study recruitment asking participants to self-select based on the publicized criterion of being "fairly traditional in their ideas about relationships, sexuality, and marriage," requiring only that volunteers were over age 18 and under age 30. Traditional is defined as "based on customs usually handed down from a previous generation" and synonymous with the terms established, prescriptive, and usual (Merriam-Webster, 2018), so we determined that those who identified as traditional would provide valuable perspectives on contemporary challenges they experience related to changing gender roles. Focus groups provided a means to observe processes of articulation of gender categories (Munday, 2014). This research thus generated data not only on content in response to our questions, but also the processes through which the content was produced. Because traditional roles are preset and passed down, or "traces' of residual kinship" (Butler, 1988, pp. 524-525), we describe Crane and Crane-Seeber's (2003) four boxes of gendered sexuality and Connell's (1987, 1995) hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity to define pre-set and passed down ideological traditions.

Hegemonic Masculinity and Emphasized Femininity

Connell (1995) defined hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity as social forces with the purpose of legitimizing "the dominant position of men and the subordination of women" (p. 77). Hegemonic masculinity includes certain directives aimed at men: emotional restrictiveness; isolation; striving for achievement; violence when necessary; hiding weakness; and avoiding anything deemed feminine or homosexual (David & Brannon, 1976; Hanke, 1998; Levant & Richmond, 2007; O'Neil, Helms, Gable, David, & Wrightsman, 1986). Therefore, adhering to hegemonic directives is associated with negative relational, psychological, and social consequences while simultaneously providing privileges (hooks, 1992). The degree to which privileges may be attained in exchange for hegemonic behaviors can be explained via intersectionality; poor, racial minorities, queer, and/or disabled men are clearly less privileged than upper class, White, heterosexual, able-bodied men (Berkowitz, 2006; hooks, 2003; Hurtado & Sinha, 2008; Rembis, 2010). Owing to intersectional analysis, the terms hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity will include privileged social locations for the remainder of this article. …

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