9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN23 Sexuality

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Sexuality, the Family and Intimate Life Building I, 1E8

Family intimacy: making sense of sexuality and intimacy in families

Family intimacy: making sense of sexuality and intimacy in families
Family lives are constantly being scrutinised in the UK: how to sustain family relationships and help parents raise children; families as the primary repository of values that characterise society; how changes in the patterning of families and intimate relationships affect children and wider ideas of social cohesion. Against this policy-oriented backdrop, family studies research has shown that individuals construct elaborate and multifarious relational networks beyond the adult-sexual couple and/or 'the family'. Paradoxically how we make sense of different feelings often lies at odds with these extending and extensive repertoires of intimacy. Discursive and experiential boundaries are set up around relationships, making culturally meaningful differences stick to interactions between self and other. In this paper I will examine how parents complete boundary work to manage differences of feeling, feelings that might otherwise overspill, breaking down categorical demarcations. Drawing on original empirical research I will examine how we make sense of different interactions. I will show how emotional investments and ordinary experiences of intimacy and sexuality routinely cut across culturally prescribed categories. I suggest that the slipperiness of emotions and the work involved in the affective containment of feelings refocuses the analytical lens on the quality of relating, cutting across the categorical demarcation of feelings. It is relating practices which shape the boundaries of intimacy more than the status of the intimate. In this way I aim to interrogate ideas of intimacy, sexuality and relationality, to include the intimate connections and affective processes that characterise people's lives.