Embodied sexual scripts
: exploring the relationship between the religious cultural socialisation and the sexual experiences of Northern Irish women

  • Ruth Flanagan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the relationship between religious cultural socialisation and the sexual experiences of Northern Irish women. There is very little research on the subjective sexual experiences of adult women in Northern Ireland, this is partly due to the dominance of Christianity in Northern Irish society and the promotion of a morally conservative and traditional perspective on sex. What we do know is that there is a deep level of institutional misogyny in Northern Irish society, high levels of sexual violence against women and the sexual health education promotes a heteronormative and patriarchal version of sexuality. Through the sexual narratives of 18 women aged 26-68 raised and schooled in Northern Ireland, I explored how women navigate this conservative moral backdrop. I conducted semi-structured interviews using a novel intimate interview technique of ‘doing hair’ whilst listening to my participants’ sexual narratives, which allowed me to utilize the routine performance of hairdresser’s emotional labour within the hairdresser/ client relationship. In the analysis of my participants’ sexual narratives, I used the theoretical framework of sexual scripting theory. I argue sexual socialisation informed by Christianity results in the development of a heteronormative, gender essentialist, patriarchal sexual script that results in differing levels of ‘very, very bad sex’, which includes non-consensual and violent sex, passive sex, and non-orgasmic sex. Many researchers have called for an extensive revision of the sexual health education in Northern Ireland, and I firmly concur with them. I further argue that the current sexual health education provision in Northern Ireland is not only inadequate, but it is negligent.

Date of AwardDec 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorDirk Schubotz (Supervisor) & Alison MacKenzie (Supervisor)


  • Sexual health
  • creative methods
  • sex research
  • sexual subjectivities
  • womens sexual experiances
  • religion
  • relgious socialisation
  • Northern Irish sexualities
  • embodiment
  • sexual scripts
  • sexual scripting theory
  • sexual literacy

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