The Impact of Raunch Culture on the Development of an Autonomous Female Sexuality in Ireland
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Raunch Culture is the relatively recent term given to the mainstreaming of sexualised images, language and messages within popular culture and the popular media over the past two decades. This thesis seeks to expose the ways in which this mainstreaming has resulted in media-led sexualisation processes that, despite appearing 'pro-sex' have actually succeeded in hindering the development of an autonomous Irish female sexuality. Using the joint methodological lenses of feminism and social constructionism, two distinct research methods were employed to achieve this aim. The first of these involved a quantitative questionnaire with 1764 young Irish women and the second involved a series of 12 face-to-face interviews with a voluntary sub-group of that sample. These methods resulted in the generation of a significant body of data which has lent itself to the argument that Raunch Culture has the potential to inhibit the development of female sexual autonomy in Ireland. Central to this argument is evidence within the study of Raunch Culture's institution of a 'sexual rulebook' that normalises certain sexual attitudes, identities and behaviours as 'good' and rejects those which do not fit the same criteria as 'bad' or 'other'. The importance of adhering to this 'rulebook' is palpable within the study's findings and manifests itself in the reported experiences of its participants, through their fear of being labelled as 'other', a pressure on their part to be 'good' at sex and, in its most inhibitive form, through a form of sexual self-regulation that affects their mode of dress, their sexual behaviour and, in extreme cases, their sexual choices, including consenting to unwanted sex and the refusal of sex that is wanted. These fears, pressures and self-regulatory behaviours provide evidence of the ways in which Raunch Culture has and continues to have a profound impact on the development of an autonomous female sexuality in Ireland.