SOC 451 California State University Northridge The Aspect of Human Sexuality Paper

SOC 451 California State University Northridge The Aspect of Human Sexuality Paper SOC 451 California State University Northridge The Aspect of Human Sexuality Paper ORDER NOW FOR CUSTOMIZED AND ORIGINAL NURSING PAPERS Unformatted Attachment Preview Social Psychology Quarterly 2014, Vol. 77(2) 100–122 Ó American Sociological Association 2014 DOI: 10.1177/0190272514521220 http://spq.sagepub.com ‘‘Good Girls’’: Gender, Social Class, and Slut Discourse on Campus Elizabeth A. Armstrong1, Laura T. Hamilton2, Elizabeth M. Armstrong1, and J. Lotus Seeley1 Abstract Women’s participation in slut shaming is often viewed as internalized oppression: they apply disadvantageous sexual double standards established by men. This perspective grants women little agency and neglects their simultaneous location in other social structures. In this article we synthesize insights from social psychology, gender, and culture to argue that undergraduate women use slut stigma to draw boundaries around status groups linked to social class—while also regulating sexual behavior and gender performance. High-status women employ slut discourse to assert class advantage, defining themselves as classy rather than trashy, while low-status women express class resentment—deriding rich, bitchy sluts for their exclusivity. Slut discourse enables, rather than constrains, sexual experimentation for the high-status women whose definitions prevail in the dominant social scene. This is a form of sexual privilege. In contrast, low-status women risk public shaming when they attempt to enter dominant social worlds. Keywords stigma, status, reputation, gender, class, sexuality, identity, young adulthood, college women, qualitative methods Slut shaming, the practice of maligning women for presumed sexual activity, is common among young Americans. For example, Urban Dictionary—a website documenting youth slang—refers those interested in the term slut to whore, bitch, skank, ho, cunt, prostitute, tramp, hooker, easy, or slug.1 Boys and men are not alone in using these terms (Wolf 1997; Tanenbaum 1999; White 2002). In our ethnographic and longitudinal study of college women at a large, moderately selective 1 ‘‘Slut.’’ Urban Dictionary. Retrieved December 18, 2013 (http://www.urbandictionary.com/ define.php?term=slut). university in the Midwest, women labeled other women and marked their distance from ‘‘sluttiness.’’ Women’s participation in slut shaming is often viewed as evidence of internalized oppression (Ringrose and Renold 2012). This argument proceeds as follows: slut 1 2 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA University of California, Merced, Merced, CA, USA Corresponding Author: Elizabeth A. Armstrong, Department of Sociology, University of Michigan, Room 3001 LSA Building, 500 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA. Email: [email protected] ‘‘Good Girls’’ shaming is based on sexual double standards established and upheld by men, to women’s disadvantage. Although young men are expected to desire and pursue sex regardless of relational and emotional context, young women are permitted sexual activity only when in committed relationships and ‘‘in love’’ (Crawford and Popp 2003; Hamilton and Armstrong 2009; Schalet 2011; Bell 2013). Women are vulnerable to slut stigma when they violate this sexual standard and consequently experience status loss and discrimination (Phillips 2000; Nack 2002). SOC 451 California State University Northridge The Aspect of Human Sexuality Paper Slut shaming is thus about sexual inequality and reinforces male dominance and female subordination. Women’s participation works at cross-purposes with progress toward gender equality. In this article, we complicate this picture. We are unconvinced that women would engage so enthusiastically in slut discourse with nothing to gain. Synthesizing insights from social psychological research on stigma, gender theory, and cultural sociology, we argue that women’s participation in this practice is only indirectly related to judgments about sexual activity. Instead it is about drawing class-based moral boundaries that simultaneously organize sexual behavior and gender presentation. Women’s definitions of sluttiness revolve around status on campus, which is largely dictated by class background. High-status women employ slut discourse to assert class advantage, defining their styles of femininity and approaches to sexuality as classy rather than trashy. Low-status women express class resentment—deriding rich, bitchy sluts for their wealth, exclusivity, and participation in casual sexual activity. For high-status women—whose definitions prevail in the dominant social scene—slut discourse enables, rather than constrains, sexual experimentation. In contrast, low-status women are vulnerable to public shaming. 101 INTERPRETING SLUT DISCOURSE AMONG WOMEN We outline three explanations of women’s participation in slut shaming. These approaches are not mutually exclusive, in part because the concept of status is central to all three. We treat status as the relative positioning of individuals in a hierarchy based on esteem and respect. This approach is fundamentally Weberian and consistent with (often implicit) definitions of the concept in social psychology (see Berger, Ridgeway, and Zelditch 2002; Ridgeway 2011; Lucas and Phelan 2012). Those with high status experience esteem and approval; those with low status are more likely to experience disregard and stigma. While status systems among adults often focus on occupation, among youth they develop in peer cultures (e.g., Eder, Evans, and Parker 1995; Milner 2006). Since the publication of Coleman’s (1961) The Adolescent Society, research on American peer cultures has found that youth status is informed by good looks, social skills, popularity with the other gender, and athleticism— traits that are loosely linked to social class (Adler and Adler 1998). In this case, status is produced and accrued in the dominant social world on campus— the largely Greek-controlled party scene (also see Armstrong and Hamilton 2013). From a social psychological stigma approach, sexual labeling is primarily about distancing the self from a stigmatized, and thus low-status, sexual category. Another approach suggests that labeling regulates public gender performance. A final, cultural approach suggests that labeling facilitates the drawing of class boundaries via distinctive styles of performing gender. Individuals at both ends of the status hierarchy seek to apply their definitions of stigma, but only high-status individuals succeed in the spaces where status is produced. 102 Sexuality, Stigma, and Defensive Othering Social psychologists view the attribution of negative meaning to a human difference as initiating the stigma process (see Link and Phelan’s 2001 model; also Lucas and Phelan 2012). The focus of most contemporary work in this tradition is on how individuals cope once a ‘‘social identity, or membership in some social category, calls into question his or her full humanity’’ (Crocker 1999:89; see also Jones et al. 1984). Research on the management of stigma offers insight into how the stigmatized respond to their situations (Goffman 1963; Major and O’Brien 2005; Killian and Johnson 2006; Saguy and Ward 2011; Thoits 2011).SOC 451 California State University Northridge The Aspect of Human Sexuality Paper One strategy involves deflecting stigma onto others (Blinde and Taub 1992; Pyke and Dang 2003; Payne 2010; Trautner and Collett 2010). This process, referred to by Schwalbe and coauthors (2000) as ‘‘defensive othering,’’ helps explain women’s participation in slut stigma. The perspective suggests that women—as subordinates to men—fear contamination and thus work to distance themselves from stigma. This model corresponds with the taken-for-granted approach described at the start of the article. The framework outlined by Schwalbe et al. (2000) and applied by a variety of scholars makes several assumptions: subordinates accept the legitimacy of classification while distancing themselves from the stigmatized category. There is a clear line between subordinates and oppressors, with some people stably located in the subordinate category. Distancing is seldom fully successful; those engaged in defensive othering do not escape the subordinate position, much as they would like to. Oppressors define the categories and the meaning system, while subordinates react ‘‘to an oppressive identity Social Psychology Quarterly 77(2) code already imposed by a dominant group’’ (Schwalbe et al. 2000:425). In this case, however, the above model does not fully apply. As we will demonstrate, women’s criteria for applying the slut label were not widely shared. There appeared to be no group of women consistently identified as sluts—at least by women. Everyone succeeded at avoiding stable classification. Yet slut stigma still felt very real. Women were convinced that actual sluts existed and organized their behaviors to avoid this label. Thus, an explanation that ends with women’s attempts to evade slut stigma by deflecting it onto other women is unsatisfying. We employ a discursive approach to explain how individual efforts to deflect stigma reaffirm its salience for all women. Gender Performance and the Circulation of Stigma The ‘‘doing gender’’ tradition suggests that slut stigma regulates the gender presentations of all girls and women (Eder et al. 1995; Tanenbaum 1999). The emphasis is on how women are sanctioned for failing to perform femininity acceptably (West and Zimmerman 1987). This suggests that slut stigma is more about regulating public gender performance than regulating private sexual practices. Taking this approach further, Pascoe (2007) draws on Foucault (1978) and Butler (1990) to analyze the circulation of the fag epithet among adolescent boys. She shows that the ubiquitous threat of being labeled regulates performances by all boys, ensuring conformity with hegemonic masculinity. Boys jockey for rank in peer hierarchies by lobbing the fag label at each other in a game of ‘‘hot potato.’’ Fag is not, as Pascoe (2007:54) notes, ‘‘a static identity attached to a particular (homosexual) boy’’ but rather ‘‘a discourse with which boys discipline themselves and each other.’’ ‘‘Good Girls’’ Pascoe’s discursive model, when extended to our case, suggests that slut discourse serves as a vehicle by which girls discipline themselves and others. It does not require the existence of ‘‘real’’ sluts. Just as any boy can temporarily be a fag, so can any girl provisionally fill the slut position. Slut discourse may even circulate more privately than fag discourse: girls do not need to know they have been labeled for the discourse to work. The fag label does not hinge on sexual identity or practices; similarly, the slut label may have little or nothing to do with the amount or kinds of sex women have. In the same way that the ‘‘fluidity of the fag identity’’ makes it a ‘‘powerful disciplinary mechanism’’ (Pascoe 2007:54), so may the ubiquity of the slut label. Just as masculinities are hierarchically organized, femininities are also differentially valued. Labeling women as ‘‘good’’ or ‘‘bad’’ is about status—the negotiation of rank among women. Men play a critical role in establishing this rank by rewarding particular femininities. Women confront a double standard that penalizes them for (even the suggestion of) sexual behavior normalized for men (Crawford and Popp 2003; Hamilton and Armstrong 2009). SOC 451 California State University Northridge The Aspect of Human Sexuality Paper We emphasize, however, that women also sexually evaluate and rank each other. Women’s competition is oriented toward both attention from men and esteem among women. We challenge literature in which femininities are seen as wholly derivative of masculinities, where women passively accept criteria established by men. Status competition among women is in part about femininity. Yet other dimensions of inequality—particularly class and race—intersect with gender to inform sexual evaluation. For example, Patricia Hill Collins argues that black women are often stereotyped as ‘‘jezebel, whore, or ‘hoochie’’’ (2004:89). Class and race 103 have no necessary connection with sexual behavior yet are taken as its signifiers. Performances of femininity are shaped by class and race and ranked in ways that benefit women in advantaged categories (McCall 1992). Respectable femininity becomes synonymous with the polite, accommodating, demure style often performed by the white middle class (Bettie 2003; Jones 2010; Garcia 2012). This suggests that high-status women have an interest in applying sexual stigma to others, thus solidifying their erotic rank. Such an explanation is partial as it does not account for why other women engage in slut shaming. We need a framework that accommodates the interests of all actors, no matter how subordinate, in deflecting existing negative classifications. Intersectionality, Moral Boundaries, and the Centrality of Class A third approach highlights the symbolic boundaries people draw to affirm the identities and reputations that set them apart from others (Lamont 1992). In some cases, boundaries have a moral dimension, distinguishing between the pure and the polluting (Lamont and Molna?r 2002; see also Gieryn 1983; Stuber 2006). Individuals in distinct social locations work simultaneously to favorably differentiate their groups from others. Lamont’s (1992, 2000) work—which attends to how people draw class boundaries—suggests that both affluent and working-class Americans construct a sense of superiority in relation to each other. She finds that working-class Americans often perceive the affluent as superficial and lacking integrity. Stuber (2006) extends her work to American college students, showing how classed meanings are situated constructions arising in interaction. She notes that the class discourse of less affluent students tends to 104 be more elaborate and emotionally charged than that of their wealthier peers. Similarly, Gorman (2000) found that middle-class and working-class individuals offered negative portrayals of members of the other social class. The narratives of the more affluent revealed contempt, while those of the working class indicated class injury. Scholars focusing on class, race, and intersectionality have observed that social differences are often partly constituted in the realm of sexuality (Wilkins 2008). Ortner claims that ‘‘class differences are largely represented as sexual differences’’ (1991:178; quoted in Trautner 2005:774, Trautner’s emphasis). Similarly, Bourdieu (1984:102) argues that ‘‘sexual properties are as inseparable from class properties as the yellowness of a lemon is from its acidity.’’ In Women Without Class, Bettie (2003) shows that differences primarily about class (and race) were interpreted as exclusively about gender and sexuality. Teachers saw the ‘‘Chica’’ femininity performed by low-income Latina girls as revealing sexual promiscuity and the femininity of middle-class white girls as indicating sexual restraint. Similarly, women from marginalized groups often emphasize sexual difference to mark class boundaries (Skeggs 1997; Wilkins 2008). SOC 451 California State University Northridge The Aspect of Human Sexuality Paper This model suggests that women’s deployment of slut discourse may be partly about negotiating class differences. It may define moral boundaries around class that also organize sexual behavior (i.e., how much and what kinds of sexual activity women engage in and with whom) and performances of femininity. The positions women take, and the success they experience when definitions conflict, may be influenced by prior social advantage. This perspective suggests that no group is entirely subject to, or in control of, slut Social Psychology Quarterly 77(2) discourse: all actively constitute it in interaction. In what follows, we use insights from all three perspectives to develop a more complex explanation of women’s slutshaming practices. We argue that women use sexual stigma to distance themselves from other women, but not primarily on the basis of actual sexual activity. Women use slut discourse to maintain status distinctions that are, in this case, linked closely to social class. Both low- and high-status women define their own performances of femininity as exempt from sexual stigma while labeling other groups as ‘‘slutty.’’ It is only high-status women, though, who experience what we refer to as sexual privilege—the ability to define acceptable sexuality in high-status spaces. METHODS Our awareness of women’s use of slut discourse emerged inductively from a longitudinal ethnographic and interview study of a cohort of 53 women who began college in the 2004–2005 academic year at Midwest University.2 We supplement these data with individual and group interviews conducted outside the residence hall sample. Below we describe the ethnographic and interview procedures, the participants, our relationships with them, and how we classified them into status groups aligning closely—but not entirely—with social class. We also address the social desirability issues acute in sex research, most notably women’s underreporting of sexual behavior (Laumann et al. 1994; Alexander and Fisher 2003). Several aspects of our design allowed us access to information women often kept secret. 2 We refer to the university with a pseudonym. ‘‘Good Girls’’ Ethnography and Longitudinal Interviews A research team of nine, including two authors, occupied a room on a residence hall floor. When data collection commenced, the first author was an assistant professor in her late thirties and the second author a graduate student in her early twenties. The team included a male graduate student, an undergraduate sorority member, and an undergraduate from a working-class family. Variation in age, approach, and selfpresentation facilitated different types of relationships with women on the floor (Erickson and Stull 1998). The floor we studied was located in one of several ‘‘party dorms.’’ Affluent students often requested this residence hall if they were interested in drinking, hooking up, and joining the Greek system. Few identified as feminist and all presented as traditionally feminine. Floor residents were similar in many ways. They started college together, on the same floor, at the same school.3 All were white, a result of low racial diversity on campus and segregation in campus housing (see Hurtado et al. 1999). All but two identified as heterosexual and only one woman was not born in the United States. This homogeneity, though a limitation, allowed us to isolate ways that social class shaped women’s positions on campus and moral boundaries they drew with respect to sexuality and gender presentation. Assessment of class background was based on parental education and occupation, student employment during the school year, and student loans (see Table 1.2 in Armstrong and Hamilton 2013). Of the sample, 54 percent came from upper-middle or upper-class backgrounds; we refer to these women as 3 At the start of the study, 51 women were freshmen, and 2 were sophomores. 105 affluent. The remainder grew up in working, lower-middle, or middle-class families; we refer to these women as less affluent. Women were told that we were there to study the college experience, and indeed, we attended to all facets of their lives. We observed throughout the academic year, interacting with participants as they did with each other (Corsaro 1997). We let women guide conversations and tried to avoid revealing our attitudes. This made it difficult for them to determine what we were studying, which behaviors interested us, and how we might judge them—minimizing the effects of social desirability. We also conducted five waves of interviews—from women’s first year of college to the year after most graduated. We include data from 189 interviews with the 44 heterosexual women (83 percent of the floor) who participated in the final interview. The interviews ranged from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours. All waves covered a broad range of topics, including party … Purchase answer to see full attachment Get a 10 % discount on an order above $ 100 Use the following coupon code : NURSING10

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