Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program


Karen E. Macke

Second Advisor

Sonja Thomas


Dominant public discourses structure our interpretations of sexual acts in decidedly gendered ways, shaping our understandings of sexual experiences and embodiment. As a result, current understandings of term such as “virginity” evoke cultural standards of womanhood, whiteness, monogamy, and tradition that both reflect and reinforce contemporary society’s hetero-patriarchal relations of power. The narratives available for girls and women to make sense of the first sexual experiences are policed by dominant sexual discourses that privilege male pleasure (Kozma, 56-59), which can limit the narratives of actual sexual experiences and subjugate gynogentiric discourses of sexual knowing (Medley-Rath 26). In the absence of public discourses or formal, institutionalized sex-positive education opportunities based on the bodies, experiences, or perceptions of cis-girls and women, this project examines the ways that women tell their sexual stories and the implications of their narrative strategies. It positions storytelling as a subversive, transformative space for girls to make sense of and affirm their experiences of sexual embodiment. In light of compelling evidence that engaging in “impression management” strategy (Goffman) within friend groups is psychologically and emotionally harmful to young women (Rudman), this project examines how women and girls navigate dominant cultural scripts to better understand sexual behaviors, experiences, and identities. Drawing on queer, feminist, and symbolic interactionist frameworks, I "call attention to the partiality, fluidity, and situatedness of knowledge” (Hesse-Biber and Piatelli 177). I explore how women accumulate and exchange sexual knowledge and ultimately become sexual bodies through my positioning as a peer researcher in the focus groups.


sexuality, gender, narrative analysis, focus groups