Sexual agency as situational: Moving beyond neoliberal understandings of sexual agency when investigating young people's alcohol intoxicated sexual encounters

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Abstract

Background: A high number of non-consensual sexual experiences happen in heavy drinking contexts, pointing to the importance of investigating how young people make meaning of their alcohol intoxicated sexual interactions. In analyzing that, researchers have used the concept of ‘sexual agency’, to describe how young people often draw on a neoliberal discourse, which emphasizes freedom, choice and individual responsibility to make meaning of their alcohol intoxicated sexual interactions. The aim of this paper is to argue for the applicability of a more situational understanding of sexual agency, such as Cahill’s (2016), when investigating young people’s alcohol intoxicated sexual experiences. Methods: 30 qualitative interviews were conducted with young Danes (aged 19-25) on their alcohol intoxicated sexual encounters. Results: A narrative analytical approach revealed that participants draw on three types of narratives on sexual encounters which emphasized: 1) The pleasurable experiences and a large degree of agency 2) The ambivalent experiences of agency and 3) The out-of-control sexual experiences. Conclusions: The results highlight the situational and varied nature of sexual agency in sexual encounters and that discourses on gender, sexuality and alcohol intoxication influence the participants’ construction of agency.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
ISSN0968-7637
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jul 2023

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