New Zealand viewers of Geordie Shore talk casual sex and binge-drinking
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In the current ‘postfeminist’ cultural climate, women are increasingly invited to be confident, free, open and ‘up for it’ and to take part in domains typically considered masculine, such as drinking alcohol and having casual sex. Some understandings of this ‘new’ femininity position women’s participation in cultures of intoxication and sexualisation as a form of social progress, liberation, empowerment and choice. However, women’s engagement with these practices is far from straightforward and some argue that they are faced with an ‘impossible’ task of balancing postfeminist demands of an ‘up for it’ femininity with traditional discourses of feminine respectability and reputation. The reality television show, Geordie Shore, where female and male characters engage in casual sex and heavy drinking is a site in which some of these contradictions of post-feminism are played out. While previous studies have analysed women’s participation in cultures of intoxication and sexualisation, this project makes a significant contribution to existing research by exploring how both men and women engage with these phenomena. Therefore, in this thesis I examine how 23 young adults, living in Christchurch, New Zealand respond to representations of women’s and men’s drinking and casual sex on Geordie Shore.
Two mixed gender and two gender specific focus group discussions were analysed using a discourse analytic approach informed by feminist post-structuralism. Participants’ lived experiences and social context informed their readings of representations of men’s and women’s casual sex and drinking on Geordie Shore. For male participants, the ‘laddish’ sexual practices represented on Geordie Shore were contrasted to men’s casual sex in ‘real life’ where having numerous sexual partners could be read as problematic. While the majority of male participants positioned themselves as accepting of women with numerous sexual partners, female participants were aware and critical of a continuing sexual double standard. Drinking and sartorial practices in the night-time economy on the show were further contrasted to participants’ lived experiences and their own identities as ‘Kiwis.’ Participants were critical of how women’s heavy drinking was represented on the show. From a New Zealand context, they drew on dominant discourses of drinking as a masculine domain. Women’s drinking in ‘real life’ was acceptable only to a certain ‘limit’ set by a standard of masculinity.
While previous research has suggested that engaging in casual sex and heavy drinking are mainly contradictory terrains for women, I argue that male participants also faced some constraints in their involvement in such practices. Although casual sex and heavy drinking are ‘requirements’ of masculinity, male participants in this research discussed ambiguous ‘limits’ around ‘handling’ their alcohol and an ‘acceptable’ number of sexual partners. Through this, they challenged dominant discourses of masculine sexuality and drinking.