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Session Overview
RN23_01a_P: Exploring Sexuality: Methodological Challenges
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Ana-Cristina Santos, Centre for Social Studies - UNiv Coimbra
Location: PC.4.24
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 4.

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Using emotion maps to open up understandings of macro-micro relations and everyday queer family life

Jacqui Gabb1, Federica de Cordova2, Chiara Sità2

1Open University, UK; 2University of Verona, Italy

The efficacy of a practices approach in the sociological study of families is now widely accepted and a wealth of research in this vein has effectively demonstrated how family relationships become personally and socially meaningful. However, the reliance on interview techniques remains and experience is all too often neatly packaged in narrativized and linear accounts that remove the ordinariness of everyday lives. In this paper we explore how using ‘emotion maps’ (Gabb, 2008) may help us to better understand the family dynamic and the ways in which emotional interactions and ordinary routines combine to shape macro-micro relations and queer-parent family life. To illustrate our argument, we draw on two recent empirical studies - Enduring Love? Couple relationships in the 21st century (UK) and Family Lives (Italy). Both of these studies used variations of the emotion map method to probe the routine relationship work that individuals and couples undertake to maintain familial, parental and sexual identities, and the parent-child relationship. The graphic technique is grounded in the everyday and generated insight on how acceptance, uncertainty, and stigma variously shape LGBQ family life, through daily interactions with extended kin and friendship networks, the structures of childhood, and professional services. In so doing the technique generated insight on some of the ways in which queer families intersect with and ordinarily defy heteronormative conventions.

Bisexuality in the Netherlands underexplored and invisible. About bi-specific issues, research gaps, and methodological reflections

Jantine van Lisdonk, Marianne Cense

Rutgers, the Netherlands

In many Western societies, including the Netherlands, same-sex sexuality is often conceptualized in a heteronormative way which leads to same-sex sexuality being reduced to representations of homosexuality. Bisexuality and non-binary sexual orientations (i.e. beyond the hetero/homo binary) remain marginalized in research. While the first Dutch large-scale bisexuality study has yet to be conducted, there is a growing attention among Dutch sexual orientation and sexuality researchers to report on bisexuality and bisexual people. Here, we provide a picture on bisexuality in the Netherlands based on national survey studies and several qualitative studies. Which experiences of bisexual people are covered in publications and which experiences remain underexplored or are not reported? Based on a qualitative study, we address unique issues bisexual young people face such as marginalization, limited space to express bisexuality, and the lack of bisexual or bi-inclusive communities. From a methodological perspective, we reflect on what the empirical picture and bi-invisibility tell us about the conceptualization of sexual orientation and related normativities. We suggest alternative ways of measuring sexual orientation in survey research and qualitative studies.

Visual representations of non-binary sexual identities amongst young Dutch adults

Marianne Cense, Jantine van Lisdonk

Rutgers, Netherlands, The

International studies demonstrate a shift amongst young people towards non-binary sexual identities (Cohler & Hammack, 2007; Savin-Williams, 2005). Non-binary sexual identities transcend conventional conceptualizations of sexual orientation as a hetero/homosexual binary and question the notion of sexual orientations and identities as fixed and non-contextualized. A British study showed that 48% of 18-24 year old people report their sexuality as not exclusively heterosexual or homosexual (YouGov, 2015). However, social norms can still be restrictive to non-binary expressions, as a recent Dutch study shows that same-sex attracted young people feel social pressure to present themselves as gay/lesbian or straight and that space for bisexual identities is limited (Van Lisdonk & Keuzenkamp, in press).

We designed a small-scale qualitative study to explore how 24 young Dutch adults experience their sexual identities, to which social norms they refer and what non-binary representations are present. We used the method Photovoice, in which participants are asked to capture aspects of their experiences by photographing scenes relevant to the research question (Catalani & Minkler, 2010). In the next phase the photographs are collaboratively interpreted in small groups, and narratives are developed that explain how the photos highlight the research theme. The results show interesting differences in the perception of sexual identity, the perceived social norms and the visualisation of sexual identities between participants who consider themselves heterosexual, gay/lesbian, bisexual, and asexual. These visual representations have the potential to get beyond the repetition of standard scripts and dominant sexuality discourses and show the diversity and richness of participants’ lived experiences. We present findings and reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of using Photovoice in sexuality research.

Engagement with academic research about asexuality by people identifying as asexual: how different kinds of knowledge come to matter in making identities.

Lisa-Maria Ferent

University of Vienna, Austria

Asexuality is both an emerging sexual identity category as well as an object of scientific research, with many efforts to locate and legitimize it. Science is however not alone in the endeavor of forming asexuality, as research on asexuality is not only carried out by academics, but also by individuals identifying as asexual – most prominently those organizing around AVEN (an internet forum that has allowed for the formation of a community around this recent emergent sexual identity). People identifying as asexual can therefore on the one hand be described as ‘objects’ of scientific knowledge, while another perspective shows the asexual community no only as consumers but as (co-)producers of scientific knowledge.

Most academic work about (patient) groups that studies the relations between scientists and non-scientists concerning the production and dissemination of knowledge is situated in the (bio-)medical realm (most notably Epstein’s work on AIDS Activism, and Callon & Rabeharisoa’s studies on AMF). Forgoing the complexities of these cases, a simple logic lies behind the engagement of these groups: find the cause, find the cure. In the case of the asexual community – where a firm distancing from pathology can be observed (see for example the case of HSDD in the DSM) – there is still abundant engagement with academic research via practices such as research participation, census-making, and archiving an discussing of scientific studies. Through analyzing qualitative interviews with members of AVEN, this paper investigates the motives for this engagement as well as how different kinds of knowledge come to matter in forming and (re)presenting collective and individual identity.

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