Nicolson, Paula (2003) Stories of Desire: Women's Accounts of their Early Sexual Feelings and Behaviours. In: Narrative, Memory and Health. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, pp. 77-83.

This chapter examines women’s accounts of how they make sense of sexual
development in their biographical context. It uses in-depth, semi-structured
interviews to collect data with the focus on participants’ biographical
reconstruction of their sexual knowledge and sexual experiences. Interviews
were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. 33 women volunteer respondents
were interviewed whose ages ranged from 19 to 60 (Mean age 28.8). All had
had some heterosexual experiences although some identified themselves as
lesbian or bi-sexual at the time of the interview. The data were examined using
a symbolic interactionist and interpretive approach, specifically to identify and
describe a) the context in which women enacted their early sexual experiences
and b) the emotional content implicit and explicit in their accounts.
The findings indicated that even the younger women whose parents grew
up in the 1960s had been told very little affirming information about women’s
sexuality and grew up with a sense of ignorance, mystery and taboo. This
impacted upon their subsequent experiences and attitudes to sexual health.
What they did come to ‘understand’ was a sense that there was a sexual double
standard, which meant that boys ‘needed’ sexual intercourse and girls were
‘responsible’ for the couples’ behaviour. They also accepted that coercion was
a component of heterosexual experience.
Women thus incorporate a sense of sexual guilt about their feelings,
behaviours and desires into their biographical knowledge of sexuality and

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