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Love me long time: safety and risk in heterocoupledom at adolescence.

This thesis argues that heterocoupledom at adolescence discursively constitutes Girlfriends and Boyfriends as gendered subjects of safety and risk. The gendering of safety and risk operates to position Girlfriends as risk navigators who make pre-emptive and response-able moves. Safety and risk are regarded as disciplinary techniques that regulate Girlfriends’ performances in relation to defending or maintaining safety and managing risk. It is argued that this positioning as risk navigators only makes ‘sense’ when the subject of Girlfriend is figured as already unsafe and yet responsible for risk. Boyfriends are argued to be positioned as already safe and capable risk takers within heterocoupledom and this configuration means that young men’s engagements with safety and risk remain normalised and unproblematic. Interviews with young women and focus groups with young women and men were conducted in the mid 1990's. i then read these texts from a feminist discursive position. This discursive approach to feminist psychology is described as it shifted politically and across disciplinary boundaries. Drawing from feminist readings of Foucauldian understandings of power and heterosexuality, i have examined the ways in which hegemonic discourses of heterocoupledom constitute Girlfriends as subjects who are expected to take responsibility for managing and navigating safety and risk. Throughout i ‘make strange’ the way risk warnings convey a taken for granted sensibility that young women should take precautions against harm, abuse and violence, and defend against their safety. The constitution of Girlfriend as already unsafe and Boyfriend as already safe is problematised. The thesis is structured around a reading of the constitution of gendered heterocoupledom, romance, risk and adolescence, and problematises how heterocoupledom is entered into, the labours of love, and the young women’s responses to harm, abuse, and violence from Boyfriends. Among the many discourses discussed, a discourse of feminine sexuality as threatened and threatening is argued to position young women as already unsafe. A girl-power femininity is argued to have been recuperated to incite young women to become subject to the labours of navigating for safety. i also pay attention to the many subversions of the discourses of gender that young people make in their everyday heterocoupledom and how masculinity and femininity are remixed in a post-modern, globalised capitalist Western context where both recuperation and resistance are at work. The overall focus remains on the disciplinary workings and implications for Girlfriends of navigating a double danger where safety (as managing risk) depends on the re-invention and reification of the already unsafe subject - Girlfriend.
Type of thesis
Parker, L. M. (2002). Love me long time: safety and risk in heterocoupledom at adolescence. (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14068
The University of Waikato
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