Presuming the influence of the media: teenagers’ constructions of gender identity through sexual/romantic relationships and alcohol consumption

Hartley, J. E. K., Wight, D. and Hunt, K. (2014) Presuming the influence of the media: teenagers’ constructions of gender identity through sexual/romantic relationships and alcohol consumption. Sociology of Health and Illness, 36(5), pp. 772-756. (doi:10.1111/1467-9566.12107)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9566.12107

Abstract

Using empirical data from group discussions and in-depth interviews with 13 to 15-year olds in Scotland, this study explores how teenagers’ alcohol drinking and sexual/romantic relationships were shaped by their quest for appropriate gendered identities. In this, they acknowledged the influence of the media, but primarily in relation to others, not to themselves, thereby supporting Milkie's ‘presumed media influence’ theory. Media portrayals of romantic/sexual relationships appeared to influence teenagers’ constructions of gender-appropriate sexual behaviour more than did media portrayals of drinking behaviour, perhaps because the teenagers had more firsthand experience of observing drinking than of observing sexual relationships. Presumed media influence may be less influential if one has experience of the behaviour portrayed. Drinking and sexual behaviour were highly interrelated: sexual negotiation and activities were reportedly often accompanied by drinking. For teenagers, being drunk or, importantly, pretending to be drunk, may be a useful way to try out what they perceived to be gender-appropriate identities. In sum, teenagers’ drinking and sexual/romantic relationships are primary ways in which they do gender and the media's influence on their perceptions of appropriate gendered behaviour is mediated through peer relationships.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hunt, Professor Kate and Wight, Professor Danny
Authors: Hartley, J. E. K., Wight, D., and Hunt, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Sociology of Health and Illness
Publisher:Blackwell
ISSN:0141-9889
ISSN (Online):1467-9566
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 The Authors
First Published:First published in Sociology of Health and Illness 36(5):772-756
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License
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