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Heterosexual single mothers’ accounts of sex, dating & intimacy Charlotte Morris Researching sex and intimacy in contemporary life July 18 th 2014 University.

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Presentation on theme: "Heterosexual single mothers’ accounts of sex, dating & intimacy Charlotte Morris Researching sex and intimacy in contemporary life July 18 th 2014 University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Heterosexual single mothers’ accounts of sex, dating & intimacy Charlotte Morris Researching sex and intimacy in contemporary life July 18 th 2014 University of Sussex

2 Intimacy scripts (1) wider ‘cultural narratives’ (such as romance) and shared understandings of appropriate intimate behaviours; influenced by gender; (2) ‘social scripts’ stemming from interactions with others in specific contexts and (3) ‘personal scripts’ of fantasies, desires and expectations. (Developed from Simon & Gagnon, 1973)

3 Cultural narratives Sexual liberation, sex as liberating Increasing gender equality Diversity and choice Moral decline / ‘traditional family values’ Risk and ‘the dark side’ of intimacy Love and romance – finding ‘the one’


5 ‘I couldn’t concentrate. I was thinking I’m going to be with the kids the whole time – oh my God, is he still going to give me some money, how can I afford things – all this stuff. I didn’t know if we’d have a home. You go into a depression, all this stuff …the kids would be saying, ‘Oh come on Mum, put on some make-up, buy some clothes’– so I actually started being feminine again and it was nice, I enjoyed it. …We were happy together right up until we broke up …but the sex wasn’t so good for me… I sacrificed that part of myself, the sex life for the children and the family. So… I was Ok with that – for instance he didn’t give me oral sex in all the time we were together. I was Ok with that ‘cos what you don’t get you don’t miss. So when I started dating afterwards and discovered men like giving oral sex it was great – yeah!’ (Sandra, 50, voluntary worker, mother of three)

6 ‘Having just got out of that, having just got out of a 22 year marriage - you know, I didn’t want to go back into that – what I wanted was sex, I’m not sure, I didn’t think at the time that what I wanted was intimacy... you know the deal was that it was just sex and it was great because I thought I’d lost my libido and I didn’t realise I was a sexual being and so that was about sex and it was a good lesson because it made me think a lot about the relationship between sex and intimacy... because I thought I didn’t want to be emotionally close to anybody, I was interested in just having a fuck buddy relationship and that was basically what was set up but I realised that um... that it was very difficult for me to separate my emotions from just sex.’ (Anna, 42, part-time professional, mother of 2)


8 ‘There’s still a lot of people who still have very archaic views of relationships as you can tell by the numbers of domestic violence that still goes on but um…I think for myself I’ve sort of looked around, sort of examining peoples’ relationships, at least how they appear on the surface, and I know that it is possible to have the kind of relationship that I want which is, you know, two individuals who care about each other and want to be together… but you’re still your own person– it’s not a relationship where you’re the woman, you’re the man; you’ve got to fit in this role, he’s got to fit in that role… you know we’re just two people who want to be together.’ (Emma, aged 45, full-time employed mother of two)


10 ‘It’s fantastic that in terms of sexuality it’s so much more open now... I think there’s still stigmatisation around but people feel much more open about expressing themselves. It’s not unusual to meet people who are open about being in a lesbian or gay relationship or an open relationship, I’ve got friends that do what the hell they want, they’re in a stable loving relationship but their sex life is something that’s totally separate... um and then you get, you know, different arrangements of family as well. People are surprised when they hear [my son’s] dad is his step-dad and now we’ve broken up but it’s still his dad even though he wasn’t his dad in the first (Zoe, 30, unemployed, mother of one)

11 …‘I’m not saying divorce is a good thing but I don’t see marriage as anything wonderful, I think for some people it is but I don’t really get it... I think there’s a tendency to have really high expectations of people and if they don’t meet them they’re very quick to move on. Maybe it’s the Hollywood effect – all these romantic images, if it’s not all you want then you say, I’ll find something better... at the other end of the spectrum there’s all these open, dynamic relationships…’ (Zoe)

12 ‘Who are we really comparing ourselves to? It’s imagined people really – I compare myself to people… as a kid I used to look at nice houses and wonder what’s it’s like to kind of be in a proper house and a proper family kind of thing and those are the people we probably kind of compare ourselves to – at least I do – and it’s kind of a mirage. What you forget is that your married friends are probably having really boring nightie on sex, they don’t have anything to say to each other – after 20 years there’s none of that, if you do go out on a date, you know, you can dress up and there’s novelty and excitement that there’s not going to be… and you forget that people are probably bored and irritated with each other because that’s what happens isn’t it – in all these situations it’s about having the courage to just move on from the hand that life has given you.’ (Natasha, 39, full-time professional, mother of two)

13 ‘I think it would be so easy just to give up and be defined by our relationships to men. I think that’s, I just feel that’s ridiculous that in this day and age… I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that ‘my mummy lived like a half-life’ and so instead of dating I’m actually looking into joining x and trying to do the things I loved before I had children, I want to do x and x, hopefully health-wise I’ll feel a lot better and I want to abandon the feelings I had before [my daughter] when I felt that in order to be complete I need to find someone who I could have a family with… and I’ll be much freer, much stronger if I can actually feel not defined by being a single parent but by just me and for my children to see that.’


15 ‘Very few people would have met [my daughter]. It was like I had a real criteria of what they had to be to meet [my daughter]. When she was younger it was mainly because I had a really big fear that they might be a paedophile that was only targeting me to get to my child! It was something that was in the news at the time… There were some guys I met who were potential… they’d say, ‘Oh I like children’ and I’d think, ‘You’re a pervert!’ [laughter] which is just ridiculous but I think I really became well a bit paranoid because you’re kind of really aware that you haven’t got anyone else to bounce things off and if anything happened her dad would basically – well he’d always blame me for everything anyway… so it made things really, really difficult for me when she was younger, worrying about all of that.’ (Cristina, aged 42, part-time professional, mother of one)


17 ‘I would like to have someone to live with, share my life with and… my daughter, because she doesn’t have a father, that person would have to be prepared to fulfil some of that role and obviously if she’d been younger they would more naturally be able to take on that father role and now that she’s older they wouldn’t have had all those years of intimacy with her… I don’t know but it’s very important for me, somebody who would… be prepared to be in that role to a degree. Not as much as it used to be but, but it’s a really big deal for her and, you know, she really, really wants a Dad… Some people in this situation say that they feel that their, the closeness that they have with their child makes things very difficult for a third person to come in but I feel that with us there’s always been this empty space.’ (Juliet, aged 43, currently unemployed, mother of one)


19 ‘Years ago they used to think that you know, once you got into a relationship that was it – no more moving about, once you got into that relationship, you stuck with it… Divorce these days, they’re making it harder and it might be good in one way because it might make people stop and think twice before they get married but um… I keep thinking to myself, maybe they had the good idea years ago, just sticking with the same partner and learning to cope with that… There’s too much choice today. There’s far too much freedom of choice’. (Karen, aged 45, unemployed, mother of 5)

20 ‘Seeing all of my aunties and my cousins, they were all getting married by the time they were 17 and they all seemed to end up in long marriages and… like my Gran, she got absolutely mad when… before my son was born, they didn’t like the fact that we just wanted to live together. They called it ‘living over the brush’ back then and they didn’t look favourably on me at all. I was like the black sheep of the family for a good few years … there is a big thing with relationships where people look at them differently because my Mum keeps saying to me now, ‘When are you going to get settled down?’ and my father says, ‘I don’t want to leave this earth and see you not being looked after’ and all that kind of thing and I say, ‘do I look like I can’t look after myself?’ I don’t know what going to happen – whether I meet the right one or not, who knows?’

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