Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Public Talk about Private Acts: Sex Talk and Sexual Agency


School of Communications


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



This essay addresses the way people talk about sex in public, and the significance of this talk. It explains the role of metaphors and narratives in building understandings of "how things are" and suggests some weaknesses of current dominant metaphors and narratives: weaknesses which disadvantage both sexes but are especially problematic for women. As a response, it offers three extended examples of alternatives/responses: two alternative metaphors ("the gatekeeper" and "the duck-pond game") and one rejection of a sex-related narrative ("I don't date"). These new metaphors and this alternate way of casting interpersonal interaction foreground women's sexual agency and equity, rather than victimization or domination.

Conference Name

Gender Matters: An Interdisciplinary Conference

Conference Location

University Park, Illinois

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