Woodiwiss, Jo (2012) Negotiating a sexual self. In: The 2nd Biannual Irish Sexuality Studies Conference, 8th-10th March 2012, Dublin, Ireland. (Unpublished)

This paper looks at the use of sexual scripts and explores the problems of prescribing a
particular sexual self. In a (western) world increasingly informed by therapeutic discourses,
childhood is constructed as a time of sexual innocence, at the same time as adult women are
told they can and should, (and have the right to) live better, more fulfilling, and satisfying
sexual lives. This has helped to construct as problematic women who “deviate” from what
(drawing on Rich 1980) I have called “compulsory sexuality”, thereby putting pressure on all
women to construct a (particular) active sexual self. Those who are unable/unwilling to
reconstruct such a sexual self are encouraged to see this as problematic and seek both cause
and solution in their damaged psychologies. One such cause is said to be childhood sexual
abuse and this paper explores women’s engagement with a body of literature that encourages
them to not only identify themselves as victims of CSA but to use the idea of an active sexual
self as a measure of health, well-being and ultimately womanhood. In critiquing this literature
I also explore how it can be used to create different sexual selves, albeit ones perceived to be “damaged”.

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