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About the Speaker:

Jennifer Barber is a Professor of Sociology and a Senior Scientist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. Barber's research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of family sociology, demography, and social psychology, with a focus on young pregnancy, intimate relationships, reproductive control, and intimate partner violence.

About the Event:

This article describes how a wide range of intimate contexts structure women’s experiences with penile-vaginal sex—including their behaviors, desires and expectations—during the transition to adulthood. We analyzed weekly longitudinal surveys from 889 women and in-depth interviews with a subset of 68 women from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life (RDSL) study. First, we found that young women used “gatekeeping” logic to restrict their partners’ access to penile-vaginal sex—such that the vast majority of it and the strongest desire for it was during time-intensive relationships committed to monogamy. Only 10% of their penile-vaginal sex was in a casual or hookup context. Second, women in the most marriage-like relationships had and expected to have obligatory penile-vaginal sex and described the irrelevance of their own desires to those experiences. Those with little experience or in new relationships did not expect undesired sex, which left them unprepared to resist it when it occurred. Third, when intimate partners perpetrated violence, penile-vaginal sex almost always accompanied it. We reason that schemas restricting penile-vaginal sex to marriage persist and have spilled over to other marriage-like relationships, that their intersection of those schemas with heteronormative sexual compliance scripts result in experiences with and interpretations of undesired sex that depend on the intimate context, and that patriarchy and male dominance associated with marriage-like relationships facilitate sexual violence.

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