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Women in love and men at work

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Heterosexual love is often assumed to be intimacy between two very differently gendered beings. This paper focuses on how gender difference is constructed in relation to love and emotionality in intimate relationships by juxtaposing evolutionary psychological approaches with a narrative, social constructionist and feminist approach. Evolutionary theory, in its most common form, supports notions of 'natural' differences, with love for children and partner seen as part of maximizing the reproduction of genes. In contrast, social constructionists call into question the 'naturalness' of any such notions by highlighting how they are continually reproduced through currently available linguistic resources and narratives. From this perspective, the experience of, and emotional approach to, heterosexual love is constrained by the stories able to speak or write of them. After outlining these different perspectives, this paper contributes to the debate on gender and emotion by analysing twenty-two in-depth, one-to-one interviews with women and men about their most important intimate relationships and love. It argues that, in talking of intimate heterosexual relationships, pervasive assumptions of gender differences endure in the stereotypic form of emotional female care-giver and rational male worker. This paper raises questions the implications of such a gender status quo for heterosexual coupledom and thus offers a critique of research and theory which reify such differences.

Keywords: discourse; emotion; gender; intimate heterosexual relationships; love

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Staffordshire University

Publication date: 2002-08-01

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