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Deserving Desire

Deserving Desire: Women's Stories of Sexual Evolution

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    Deserving Desire
    Book Description:

    Women experience considerable changes in their bodies, lives, and identity between the ages of twenty and seventy, including marriage, motherhood, the dissolution of relationships, and menopause, all of which often impact sexuality. InDeserving Desire, Beth Montemurro takes a wide-ranging look at the evolution of women's sexuality over time, with a specific focus on the development of sexual subjectivity-that is sexual confidence, agency, and a sense of entitlement to sexual desire.

    Detailed stories of the ninety-five women in this study explore how they become more comfortable with their bodies, when most begin to enjoy sex, feel confident and positive about engaging in it, and how they become sexual subjects in control of their bodies.Deserving Desireexplores the complex multi-stage process in which sexual subjectivity evolves over a woman's lifetime. As girls, they learn about sex and how those around them-parents, peers, religion and media-regard sex. Physical and emotional transitions such as having a baby or ending a relationship further affect women's sexual confidence and desire. Montemurro emphasizes that sexual subjectivity is about feeling in control of sexual decision making and acting purposefully and confidently.

    Though adolescent sexuality has been a major focus of sociological research, few studies have examined, as Montemurro does here, the development of sexuality through women's lives and the events that change the way women feel about themselves, their bodies, and their relationships.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-7024-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-19)

    Monica is an attractive, bright woman from a large northeastern city. She is a married, African American mother of two young children who works full time in the field of education. When we met to talk about the evolution of her sexuality, Monica confessed that, in college, she lied to friends about having had an orgasm. She did not know what it felt like to climax, so she just laughed along with friends when the subject came up. Her parents never talked to her about sex, nor was it something she discussed openly with friends. Recalling her sexual feelings as...

  5. 2 DEVELOPING A STANCE: Sowing the Seeds of Sexual Subjectivity
    (pp. 20-46)

    I met Hannah, a petite Asian American woman, married for forty-three years, at her home in a northeastern suburb on a cold winter day. She was talkative, had a wonderful laugh, and eagerly shared stories of how she had learned about sex and the lack of information available for girls who came of age in her day. In young Hannah’s household, sex was not a topic for discussion. Her parents never mentioned it, nor did she witness any intimacy between them. In fact, the conversation I quote in this chapter’s epigraph was the only remotely sexual one she ever remembers...

  6. 3 LEARNING THROUGH DOING: Early Exploration and Experience
    (pp. 47-75)

    Few women I interviewed approached initial sexual encounters feeling confident or prepared. Most said they only really understood sex after they had experienced it. Although some had read books or heard sketchy and confusing accounts from friends, the majority—particularly those born in the 1940s and 1950s—said they did not truly “get it” until they began to do it. Their first real understanding of sexuality was accomplished in thelearning through doingphase. Sexuality is shrouded in mystery and taboo; so when girls experiment, they begin to make sense of it through their bodies. They start to understand sex...

  7. 4 VALIDATION, AFFIRMATION, AND ENCOURAGEMENT: Sexual Relationships of Consequence
    (pp. 76-101)

    On a rainy fall day I met Tara in a hotel lobby in a large northeastern city. A single Asian American woman who works in real estate, she was raised in a conservative household in a conservative southern state and received little direct information about sex during her formative years. Yet she was curious and sought out clues. She recalled feeling “mesmerized” when she stumbled across one of her father’sPlayboymagazines. As she matured, Tara had crushes on boys and thought about kissing them but felt unsure of how to go about it. By the time she went away...

    (pp. 102-121)

    Jacqueline, an energetic, petite, African American woman, walked into my office with many stories to tell. As a military wife, mother of six, working full time, and pursuing higher education, she had had a lot on her plate before her marriage began to fall apart. She had long been dealing with issues stemming from not only her childhood sexual assault (described in chapter 3) but also her roots in an ethnic group, a religion, and a family in which sex was taboo. Her mother never talked to her about sex or her body, and Jacqueline now feels this did her...

    (pp. 122-134)

    Sara, a white, married, mother of two teenagers, told me that motherhood had complicated her relationship with her husband. After more than twenty years of marriage, she still struggled to balance the roles of working mother and wife. Sara was the family breadwinner, and she prided herself on her success and dedication. However, she also had little free time for her family, and her children took priority over her husband. Like other women with whom I spoke—both working and stay-at-home mothers—Sara felt that her motherhood role had added a new element to her identity, and she struggled to...

  10. 7 SELF-DISCOVERY THROUGH EMBODIED CHANGES: The Physical Experience of Motherhood
    (pp. 135-158)

    Giving birth was a turning point for Alice, a white, divorced, mother of three. Becoming a mother dramatically changed how she both saw and experienced her body. Partly biological (recognition of her body’s strength and its reproductive capacity) but largely social (because physical changes allowed her to appreciate rather than police her body), her new awareness allowed her to lose “the perfect body thing” while further exploring its sensual possibilities. She began to see her body and herself as formidable, a new view for her. In her words, “this is … therealsexuality.”

    Having sex to become pregnant and...

    (pp. 159-181)

    In a study of Americans over the age of sixty, researchers found that 66 percent of women said sex was an important part of their relationships with their husbands and that 70 percent of sexually active women were either “as satisfied or even more satisfied with their sexual lives than they were in their forties” (Kingsberg 2002, 432). According to a more recent survey, 41 percent of women between the ages of forty-five and fifty-nine rate their sexual relationship as “extremely pleasurable” (considerably less than the 60 percent of men who say the same), and about a third of women...

  12. 9 SELF-ACCEPTANCE: Staying Sexual Subjects
    (pp. 182-200)

    Delia, a writer, welcomed me into her cozy home, which was located in a busy suburban area. Now sixty years old, she has been married twice, and several other relationships have also contributed to her understanding of her sexuality and her peace with it. In chapter 4, I described how her relationship with her first husband inspired self-confidence when he genuinely expressed interest in her sexual satisfaction and encouraged her to strive for it. Through that exploration, she became more self-assured and aware of what she wanted, liked, and could do without.

    During her childhood, Delia’s open parents influenced her...

    (pp. 201-210)
    (pp. 211-214)
    (pp. 215-222)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 223-230)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-232)