Leah A. Flynn

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Sari Knopp Biklen


College women, Emotional labor, Sex, Sexual Decision-Making, Sexuality, Subjectivity

Subject Categories



This research concerns the process of college women's emotional labor in sexual decision-making and how women talk about their sexual decisions via their negotiation of dominant social discourses. The study seeks to determine how the college experience nurtures women's sexual subjectivity; how it affects their negotiation of sexual messaging and social dominant discourse; and how it impacts the emotional work involved in the process. The study was conducted at three college campuses that vary relative to institutional type (i.e., public vs. private), social class, and race. The research was conducted in fall 2006 at Center State University, and in the spring and summer 2010 semesters at Northeast University and Upper Lake Community College. The qualitative study involved eight focus groups and 20 in-depth interviews and a total of 48 participants. Out of those 48, three women identified themselves as lesbian, three as bisexual, two as asexual, and one as queer. Two women chose not to identify. In regard to racial make-up, 36 women were white and the remainder identified as African American, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Latina, Korean, and Southeast Asian. All participants were of traditional college age (18 to 21), except for three women in their late 20s and early 30s. The forms of emotional labor that emerged were (a) how women understood and talked about the regulatory expectations and social norms of women's sexuality and how regulation shapes subjectivity, (b) how women's negotiation of those regulations in juxtaposition with their sexual desire demonstrates sexual subjectivity (c) how college served--and was perceived as--a "bubble" for women to more fully engage in acts of resistance and agency in response to gendered social expectations within a space that nurtured sexual subjectivity. Ultimately, the study focuses on young women's negotiation of sexuality and the emotional work that their talk reflects; it exposes ways in which women are thoughtful and reflective in their sexual decision-making while engaging with their sexual subjectivity.


Open Access

Included in

Education Commons