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Chelsea Dowling

Doctor of Clinical Psychology, (Psychology)
Study Completed: 2017
College of Humanities & Social Sciences


Thesis Title
A Sexual Masquerade: The Performance of Desire and Femininity in a Fifty Shades of Grey Era

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Within a neoliberal era, women are assumed to have achieved sexual 'liberation' and 'equality'. However, research suggests that women's efforts in 'doing' or fulfilling their sexual desires remain confined by gendered performativity, being more about looking desirable or performing desire over feeling it. Ms Dowling explored how young women, sex therapists and women seeking sex therapy talked about desire, including whether they reproduced or resisted a 'normative' sexual script. While there were points of resistance, women's desire remained a gendered performance that served men's desires and pleasures, with those that 'failed' at femininity understanding themselves as 'deficit' or 'disordered'. Although sex therapists continually attempted to disrupt this sexual script, they too were limited by their own discipline. Ms Dowling's research examined the gendered power relations that constrain women's bodies as well as emphasising the importance of attending to these issues and opening spaces for women's desire.

Dr Leigh Coombes
Dr Kirsty Ross