Sexual Ad-lib?: Sexual Scripts and the Negotiation of Sexual Boundaries When Women Have Sex with Women
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Same-sex sexual behavior is often ambiguously understood and defined. This study examines the way in which women use sexual scripts (Simon and Gagnon 1984) to negotiate and establish sexual boundaries when they have sex with other women over the life course. This study utilized qualitative in-depth semi-structured interviews with 20 women from the central Texas area, who reported having a sexual encounter with at least one woman in their lifetime. Within these narratives, I found that, unlike heteronormative sexual encounters, lesbian ones required extra navigation and negotiation based on little-to-no pre-established sexual references. Therefore, women negotiate sexual boundaries with other women in a way that is reflective of heteronormative sexual scripts but would then engage in ad-libbing. This means that heteronormative sexual scripts are used but women will insert, add on, and manipulate that script to fit the non-heterosexual encounter. Women engaging in sexual behavior with other women will negotiate those boundaries based on their sexual experience, their partner’s sexual experience, and their location in their life course. I also found that the definition of sex influenced the ways in which women engaged in sex with other women. The concept of what “real” sex is influenced how seriously sexual boundaries were taken or how legitimate those encounters were understood to be. This research provides implications for future research and for social and mental health services to better serve lesbian, bisexual, and queer women.