Perceptions of ‘Ladylike’ Language: Assessing Gender Barriers to Sex Communication
Miller, Claire C., 1999--
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This research project seeks to identify and analyze the expectations placed on male and female communication as it relates to sex, one area in which communication is highly important. In order to identify these expectations, a survey was distributed to current students at Northern Illinois University asking them to label a series of 30 sexual phrases related to asserting sexual boundaries, stating sexual desires, and asking for consent as being expected to be said by someone who is definitely a man, likely a man, equally likely to be a man or a woman, likely a woman, or definitely a woman. Each response was then coded with a number such that definitely a woman = -2, likely a woman = -1, equally likely to be a man or a woman = 0, likely a man = 1, and definitely a man = 2. All responses for every question were added together in order to assess the final masculine or feminine perceptions of each phrase. The more negative the final sum corresponding to a phrase, the more feminine the phrase was perceived; the more positive the sum, the more masculine the phrase was perceived. Results indicate that phrases asserting a sexual boundary that are perceived as feminine always include language ‘softeners” – phrases that indicate tentativeness or politeness. However, statements of sexual desire and questions of consent featuring expletives or language ‘softeners’ are not unequally expected of men or women. The expectation for women to incorporate politeness or tentativeness into asserting sexual boundaries may disadvantage women and make their sexual rejections less likely to be respected.