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Through their s of sexy selfies, girls perform complex, intersectional identities in interaction with dominant discourses about sexiness, the materiality of their bodies, their social position and the specific context of self ie -making practices. Involving this complexity in discussions about sexy selfies can create promising opportunities for interrogating social norms, stereotypes and power inequalities. Both selfies that are shared in private sexting interactions and selfies that are shared in more public spaces, such as profile pictures, are often met with disapproval.
Popular and academic discussions have focused on risks such as bullying, harassment, blackmailing and sexual violence for overviews of these studies, see Karaian and Van Meyl, ; Salter et al. Feminist scholars have pointed out how these discourses have resulted in moralising responses, aimed at preventing especially teen girls from making and sharing sexy selfies e.
Burns, ; Hasinoff, ; Renold and Ringrose, ; Ringrose, Girls are thus confronted with contradictory norms: while they are encouraged to perform heterosexiness, they risk moral condemnation and slut shaming when they do so Ringrose et al. With this article, which is based on one and a half years of ethnographic fieldwork among Dutch young people aged 12—18, I contribute to and extend this field of research by exploring how through their s of sexy selfies, girls perform not only gender and sexuality, but also other axes of social differentiation.
I investigate the different ways in which girls navigate sexiness and sexy selfies, which axes of social difference are made ir relevant in these s, and how this contributes to the performance of intersectional identities.
One of these regards online practices as representational acts. These studies investigate how people represent themselves online, using concepts such as self- re presentation and impression management e. Identity is assumed to be something a person has, develops, constructs or performs offline, and that can be represented more or less honestly online.
This approach has received critique for oversimplifying and underestimating online practices. Bailey et al. Empirical studies of adult selfie sharing practices have demonstrated that such an approach is fruitful in exploring the dynamics of identity performance, for instance the production of gendered and heteronormative subject positions Bailey et al. Contemporary western culture compels the articulation of a self that is recognisable, and in line with available categorisations and discourses of selfhood Butler, ; Cover, Contemporary discourses of sexiness are not only gendered and heteronormative, as discussed in the introduction, but also racialised and classed.
Race seems to work in contradictory ways. Girls of colour, if taken into at all, are conceptualised differently. Real women nude selfies analyses real women nude selfies that discourses about sexiness carry specific, sometimes contradictory, racialised connotations. In this article, I analyse whether and how girls refer to gender, sexuality, class and ethnicity in their s of sexy selfies, but also whether there are other categorisations that matter to them. The framework of intersectionality has been criticised for its static conceptualisation of. According to Krebbekx et al. Such an understanding of intersectionality calls for contextualised analyses of the un making of different intersecting identities.
In further unravelling the relation between the un making of differentMoser argues that the enactment of one difference may support and reinforce the enactment of other differences, but may also contradict, challenge or undo them. This dynamic and complex understanding of identity is central to the present article. This article is based on one and a half years of ethnographic fieldwork between and among Dutch young people aged 12—18, in which I combined qualitative and quantitative research methods. In this article, I only use the qualitative part of the study, consisting of one year of online and offline participant observation, focus group meetings and interviews.
Most offline participant observation took place in schools mainly in two schools: one offering secondary vocational training 1 and one preparing for vocational college and academic learning 2 and on public transport, for instance on the bus between the train station and the school. For the online participant observation, I established online connections with participants whom I had met offline, following them into the online spaces they used.
In addition to the participant observation, I conducted 28 individual and duo-interviews, two group interviews and six focus group meetings.
Two focus group meetings and one group interview were conducted together with MA students. Participants who were involved in this qualitative part of the research project were diverse with regard to their identifications in terms of gender, age, educational level, ethnic background, sexual identification and religion. They have been made anonymous to protect their privacy. In this article, I focus on the discursive aspect. The data were analysed using a combination of deductive and inductive coding.
The combination of deductive and inductive coding facilitated the identification of both familiar and new themes in my data, and enabled me to develop a critical, detailed and youth-centred analysis of dominant conceptions of sexiness.
Among research participants, the word selfie was not very popular. Therefore, this study also involves those other portrait pictures. I do refer to these pictures as selfies though, in order to capture the unique character of digitally shared pictures in terms of their networked distribution, consumption and ubiquity Donnachie, Especially sexy selfies were often framed in this gendered way, even to the extent that some research participants found it hard to imagine what a boy could do to look sexy see also Handyside and Ringrose, Research participants explained that certain outfits were sexier in some contexts than in others.
For instance, bikini pictures taken in a bedroom were regarded as more sexual than bikini pictures taken on the beach. The characteristics that are regarded as markers of sexiness are thus multiple and to some extent subjective, and research participants engaged in lively debates about whether specific pictures were sexy or not. In these debates, it became clear that rather than demonstrating a unified girl culture, girls negotiated sexiness in different ways.
In many instances, girls rejected sexiness and resisted a labelling of their own selfies as sexy see also Ringrose, One important reason for this became clear during real women nude selfies focus group meeting, where I asked participants whether sexiness is different for boys and girls:.
For girls it is more like: look at me, I have boobs, and boys will think: aha, so she is up for it. This association between sexiness and sluttishness, which was common among research participants, makes it complicated for girls to share selfies that might be evaluated as sexy, or even to claim a positive attitude towards sexiness and sexy selfies. Other girls did share selfies that could be labelled as sexy, and some girls even enthusiastically embraced sexy selfies, made and shared them, and defended them against negative comments.
These pictures sometimes brought them considerable advantages. For instance, the pictures played a role in attracting the attention from potential partners, they contributed to intimate or erotic conversations, they yielded positive feedback resulting in feelings of self-esteem and connectedness, and they helped to increase popularity see also Lamb et al. Sexiness is thus not only rejected, but also embraced. In some instances, research participants embraced sexiness. This happened for instance during a focus group meeting with five girls of colour who were selected based on their identification as Dutch- Antillean.
One of the girls remembers a similar case:. Yesterday I witnessed an argument on Facebook about a profile picture. You really saw her boobs on the picture, and her best friend told her to take it off. Well, you did see her boobs a bit too much, but I would not comment on that. But those Dutch kids, they do react. They contrast this to their own attitudes:. For my research participants, their positive attitude towards sexiness functioned as a marker of racial and ethnic difference between them and other girls. Their emphasis on embracing sexiness can be interpreted as a form of boundary work, that reproduces racial and ethnic boundaries and contributes to the performance of Antillean and sexy femininity.
One of the remarks quoted above reveals that there is more to say about this meeting however. Skeggs explains that, on the one hand, this strategy functions to critique people from higher social classes, but on the other hand, it also operates as a mechanism that keeps people in their classed place. Whereas in some instances girls embraced sexiness, in many others they partly rejected it.
We met at her school, and talked about her study before we started the actual interview. Because sharing such pictures is risky. The partial rejection of sexy selfies was also related to the construction of other differences. They curse more, are trashier, with short skirts that show their ass and shirts that are too small, with leopard print. The consequences of being with different boys, or of posting pictures of yourself online. Nevertheless, they too make claims about smartness, like Kyra 15 did in an interview:. Nevertheless, also girls of colour used a rejection of sexiness as a way of claiming smart femininity.
Although it does not directly address sexy selfies, this observation of a sex education class for girls both white and of colour is a telling illustration:. Class is about to start and most pupils have already arrived when Rita comes in. She wears an orange, tight, short dress with black tights, slippers and a short black jacket. The dress only just covers her buttocks and as she sits down, her underpants become visible. Upon her arrival in class, the atmosphere changes. The girls sitting across Rita look at her and start giggling. Rita notices and pulls her skirt down a little. During the entire class, real women nude selfies atmosphere remains noisy.
Rita herself is quiet, and has only little interaction with the other girls. Yet another dimension seems to be at stake here. One week after this particular observation, I participated in the same group. Rita was not present; she had been transferred back to the school for special education.
Sydney is much more popular than Rita, which seems to provide her with extra space for performing sexiness for a more elaborate discussion on the relation between heterosexiness and popularity, see Duncan, This role of popularity was voiced explicitly by another research participant, Erica Vice versa, this also means that performing sexiness or demonstrating a positive stance vis-a-vis sexiness can in some cases contribute to the performance of popularity.
One case that demonstrates this is the case of a Christian girl Judith, 15who voiced contradictory opinions about sexiness during a focus group meeting with girls identifying as Christian. At several points, Judith 15 agreed with this and demonstrated a negative attitude towards sexiness. For instance, she explained that in order to be recognised as a Christian girl, she did not share sexy selfies in online spaces such as Facebook, and she made several negative comments about sexy outfits. These partly positive positionings towards sexuality and sexiness seem contradictory to her identification as Christian, and the rejection of sexiness that is associated with that identification.
By making this statement during the focus group meeting, she constructed age as a relevant category and performed young, Christian, sexy femininity, allowing herself some room for sexual experimentation. For young people, the body and sexuality play a crucial role in the performance of maturity see also Duits, Being self-confident, being able to talk about sexuality without showing discomfort, and being sexually active within certain limits were usually regarded as s of maturity. In this article, I analysed how teen girls perform intersectional identities through their s of sexy selfies.
My analysis demonstrates that girls navigate sexiness and sexy selfies in different ways: they may partly reject sexiness, partly embrace it, or take a more contradictory position. These positionings are not static, and they may change even in the course of one conversation. Axes of social difference that play a role in this process are not just gender and sexuality, which have been central to studies, but also other axes. Some of these are well-known ethnicity, class, educational level, religionwhereas others have remained largely invisible in studies of youth, sexuality and social media smartness, maturity, popularity.
The constructions of these multiple differences interfere in ways that may be dynamic and unpredictable, resulting in a variety of possible subject positions. This means that while the interferences between constructions of multiple differences can be dynamic and unpredictable, they do not exist in a social and material vacuum, and they may also work to reproduce dominant categorisations, social norms, stereotypes and power relations. Acknowledging these interconnections, and making them part of the discussion about sexy selfies may create promising opportunities real women nude selfies interrogating social norms, stereotypes and power inequalities.
Finally, my study illustrates that all axes of social difference should be analysed as social constructions. For research participants, this performative nature was captured in the concepts of smartness and maturity. I thank all research participants for sharing their experiences, and those who assisted with the logistics of the study.Real women nude selfies
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Nude selfies: are they now art?