Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Research Student: Nichole Edwards

Experiences of pleasure and desire in the heterosexual practices of woman-identified feminists

Photo of Nichole Edwards

My research explores how woman-identified feminists experience desire and pleasure in the context of their heterosexual practices. This research aims to make original methodological contributions to feminist sexuality research through the collection of personal diaries and semi-structured interviews. It also works to advance dialogues surrounding the relationship between one’s feminism and one’s sexuality, particularly through notions of agency, embodiment, and the justification of feminist heterosexual desire. This research seeks to explore the complexities of the often unquestioned paradigm of heterosexuality when considered alongside individual feminist narratives and in doing so, argues for a more nuanced understanding of feminist heterosexualities.


In 2007, I completed an Honours BA in Women’s Studies and Sociology from Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada).

In 2009, I received an MA in Gender & Culture from the University of Leeds. My dissertation was entitled ‘Negotiations and Non-Negotiations of Male-defined Power: The Heterosexual Practices of 20-Something, University Educated Feminists’

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

The limitations of my MA research concluded that although (my sample) was content to negotiate sexual boundaries and assert themselves in terms of what was not acceptable in the context of their own sexual practices/relationships, they often reinforced some of the more dominant norms with regards to female sexuality (and all were acutely aware of the role these norms played within their own practices). As a result, there was little to no discussion of female pleasure, but rather an acceptance that patriarchal norms were so deeply embedded into their own socialization processes as a gendered, sexual being that it was considered a task too complex to challenge, particularly when engaging in acts of sex.

What makes me passionate about my subject?

Heterosexuality is rarely problematized as its construction, and perhaps more importantly, its perception, is that of an unproblematic sexual identity.  It is my contention that conceptualizing heterosexuality as an unproblematic paradigm is, in itself, problematic, particularly when considering how one’s feminist politics might come in to play with one’s sexual desires. It is the tensions that exist between the rhetoric of one’s feminism and the practice of one’s heterosexuality (and visa versa) which are the motivating force in this area of study. Advancing dialogues within female sexuality have, in my opinion, been insufficiently studied in this area.

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