Sexual Agency During Adolescence: Relationships, Desire and Negotiation
Chico, Emilia A
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Adolescence is an important developmental period during which young people come to understand themselves as sexual actors, develop a sexual identity, and develop skills necessary for navigating sexuality development across the life-course. Existing sexuality research establishes that an awareness of one's self as an agentic, sexual subject is required for engaging in meaningful sexual decision-making (Bryant & Shoefield, 2007; Fields, 2008; Garcia, 2012). Scholars across disciplines are drawing on sexual agency to understand sexual decision-making throughout the life-course, yet there are no empirical studies that examine sexual as a developmental process. This empirical investigation examines sexual agency and sexual decision-making during adolescence utilizing phenomenology as a theoretical framework. Three focus groups and 20 one-on-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of adolescents (ages 16-21) from the Chicago-land area. Overall, the findings from my study reveal that the relational aspects of sexual agency, including but not limited to communicating desires, negotiating desires, negotiating boundaries, and negotiating safety, inform how young people engage in sexual relationships. The results of this study contribute to our understanding of sexual agency by moving a) beyond the individual, b) beyond the scope of penile-vaginal intercourse and c) beyond the scope of white, heterosexual women. In addition to the aforementioned contributions this study expands the literature on adolescent sexuality development by linking desire and negotiation, detailing how young people manage risk, and acknowledging the role of reflection. Findings also indicate that young people must contest and resist oppressive gendered norms and sexual scripts that impact their ability to exercise sexual agency and make informed decisions. Evidence reveals that oppressive gendered norms and sexual scripts are prevalent in the lives of study participants, communicated by parents, family members, teachers, and peers. Findings suggest that oppressive norms and scripts impact how youth participants express their intersecting identities (e.g. Queer Latina, Gay Black Male), express their desires, and how they negotiate complex sexual experiences. By examining sexual agency beyond the scope of white heterosexual women, we can deepen our understanding of sexuality development and identify ways to support queer and gender expansive youth as they navigate complex sexual decision-making.
SubjectSexual Agency, Adolescence