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'What I Used to Do … On My Mother's Settee': spatial and emotional aspects of heterosexuality in England

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Abstract:

Using data from an ongoing project which investigates continuities and changes in the institution of heterosexuality across the twentieth century, this article brings a spatialised perspective to bear on the contradictions implicit within family-based models of hegemonic heterosexuality. In this context we contribute to the growing focus by geographers on theorising the spatial and emotional aspects of heterosexuality. Via interviews with women and men from three generations in 20 families from East Yorkshire, England, we discover the difficulties experienced by individuals seeking to bring together their sexual and family lives. Focusing on two areas, the transmission of sexual knowledge between the members of different generations and between heterosexual partners and the use of space within the performance of gendered identities, the article shows how individuals both experience constraint and discover scope for agency in managing such contradictions. Via empirical data we therefore begin to identify the ways in which heterosexuality, as an institution, has provided an implicit organising principle through which materially-grounded links between self, the emotions, other, body, home and the public sphere have been produced and/or negotiated over the last 80 years.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0966369042000258712

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociological Studies University of Sheffield UK 2: Social Policy Research Unit University of York UK

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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