The Social Construction of Sexuality: Personal Meanings, Perceptions of Sexual Experience, and Females' Sexuality in Puerto Rico

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1997-05-06

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Virginia Tech

Abstract

A qualitative study on a sample of 12 Puerto Rican women was conducted in Puerto Rico. The purpose of this study was to explore the various ways in which sexual meanings are created, changed, and modified as the nature of social discourse and personal experience changes.

The two theoretical frameworks that guided the methodology and analysis of the data were social constructionism and feminism. I assumed that sexuality is socially constructed, shaped by social, political, and economic influences, and modified throughout life. Feminist theories assisted in documenting the ways in which females' sexuality in Puerto Rico is shaped by culture and by institutions that disadvantage females and other oppressed groups by silencing their voices. The theories guided the discussion of the contradicting messages about women's sexualities and their experiences, as these women fought, conformed to, and even colluded with their oppression.

Analysis of the participants' written and oral narratives produced the overarching theme of sexual meanings/scripts, along with three interrelated sub-themes: sources and nature of sexual scripts, determining experiences, and social discourses of female sexuality. Participants reported three institutional sources of sexual messages: family, religion-culture, and institutions of education. Their determining experiences follow a common thread that weaves a common story line: the life-long struggle with the incongruencies between the social constructions of female sexuality and the realities of these women's sexual experiences.

Sexuality is defined as being challenged and modified through the participants' lives. Four social discourses of female sexuality emerged from the analysis of the data: source of guilt and shame, vulnerability and sexual victimization, ambivalence, and empowerment. A theory of ambivalence was developed from the data as a means to understand the participants' process of developing the paradigms for their own sexuality.

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Keywords

puerto rico, female sexuality, sexuality, ambivalence, sexual scripts, sexual discourses, Women

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