"I Wish You Could've Been There": College Students' Experiences of Performative Making Out
University of Kansas
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People have sex for many reasons (Meston & Buss, 2007). Although most intercourse occurs in private, some reasons for sexual behavior require an audience. For example, some heterosexual women report making out with other women to arouse men (Esterline & Galupo, 2013; Fahs, 2009). Some men report that patronizing strip clubs and talking about heterosexual sex makes them feel more masculine (Flood, 2008; Frank, 2003; Pascoe, 2007). The purpose of the present study was to investigate the prevalence, motivations, and outcomes of college students' experiences with wanting to be seen making out. Participants were 349 female and male college students. Thirty-six percent of women and 37% of men reported making out with someone and wanting others to see them. Significantly more women than men reported same-gender performative experiences. We used thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) to identify themes in the qualitative data. Participants reported numerous motivations, including enhancing their image, making an ex-partner jealous, demonstrating a relationship, having fun, and sexually arousing men. Men reported that their reputations were enhanced more often than damaged as a result of their performances. Women reported the opposite pattern. These results provide insights into the functions of sexual behavior as a means of communication, as well as highlight important gender differences that are consistent with problematic cultural belief systems like "slut-shaming" and victim blaming.
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