The role of ambiguity in sexual encounters between young people in England

Mitchell, K. and Wellings, K. (2002) The role of ambiguity in sexual encounters between young people in England. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 4(4), pp. 393-408. (doi: 10.1080/1369105021000041043)

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This paper explores the role of ambiguity in sexual encounters between young people. It is based on a qualitative study of young peoples' communication about sexual matters whilst on a date. Focus groups (4) and semi-structured interviews ( n = 29) were conducted with young people (aged 16-29) in three areas of England. The results suggest that ambiguity may serve a useful function in the management of ambivalence during sexual encounters; may protect the self and others from the pain of rejection; and may guard against the possibility of making a false assumption. In such contexts, ambiguity may constitute a reasoned or rational response to a given set of circumstances. This rationality needs to be acknowledged by health professionals. Ambiguity is also sometimes construed as an appropriate mode of communication for a passive female role. Given the complex motivations behind the adoption of ambiguous cues, discussion-based teaching and peer group formats may be more appropriate than didactic teaching methods when helping young people to adopt more direct communication strategies.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mitchell, Professor Kirstin
Authors: Mitchell, K., and Wellings, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Culture, Health and Sexuality
ISSN (Online):1464-5351

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