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Durham e-Theses
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Behaving disgracefully: the impact of internet dating site use upon the identities of women in middle age

Richards, Judy (2007) Behaving disgracefully: the impact of internet dating site use upon the identities of women in middle age. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This is a qualitative study that explores the experiences of a group of thirty middle- aged women who, after the loss of a long-term relationship, were using Internet dating sites to find heterosexual relationships and enjoy casual nights out. The research follows women on their journey through their experiences of using dating sites, interacting with men online, and eventually meeting men for offline encounters. The central theme of the thesis is the ways in which women understood and negotiated their identities as single, middle-aged women and how they incorporated often sudden and unexpected change into a linear life story of the self. Central to identity construction were issues of the ageing self over time, sexuality and femininity (and the intersection of all three), which were brought into sharp focus for women entering the dating scene in the middle years. Their experiences of interacting with men, both on and off the dating sites, reveals how women understood, circumvented and challenged heterosexual norms of behaviour and sexuality for the middle-aged woman that were perceived to regulate and restrict their behaviour and use of social space. Importantly however, alongside women's accounts of empowerment as single women sat the almost compulsive desire for male company that fuelled their intensive use of the dating sites. Women were enabled by the dating sites to have many new adventures, date a wide variety of men and enjoy many sexual encounters. This change in behaviour was often perceived as a fundamental challenge to the self as many women understood their dating behaviour as 'acting out of character'. The research shows however, that despite the risk of being placed as 'unrespectable' in the eyes of others, women nevertheless embraced their opportunity to behave 'disgracefully'.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2007
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:33

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