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03.07.2019 | Ausgabe 3/2019 Open Access

Qualitative Sociology 3/2019

Verbalizing Sensations: Making Sense of Embodied Sexual Experiences

Zeitschrift:
Qualitative Sociology > Ausgabe 3/2019
Autoren:
Myra Bosman, Rachel Spronk, Giselinde Kuipers
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Abstract

Embodied experiences are strongly felt, but hard to communicate or verbalize. This article examines people’s articulation and sense-making of their sexual sensations, during interviews, to gain insight into what we refer to as a “perceptual loop” between embodied sensations, body-sensorial knowledge, and social meanings. We employ a combination of interactionist and practice theory to study sex as an embodied practice that unfolds in interactions. We analyze this using in-depth interviews with 34 Dutch women and men about their sexual interactions. We focus on how they make sense, with their partner and with the interviewer, of their embodied experiences within an interview setting that requires them to verbalize their experience. Participants communicated these embodied sensations by (1) using multi-interpretable sensory wordings; (2) drawing comparisons between different sexual sensations; and (3) referring to other sensory sensations, and by exemplifying their effect (e.g. breathing, shrieking). We argue that to analyze people’s verbalized understanding of their sensations, we need to attend to an ongoing feedback process: sex both shapes and is shaped by social meaning and cultural knowledge. Embodied sensations are not the material onto which the social is mapped. Instead, embodied practices and interactions mediate and shape the social, leading to body-sensorial knowledge. While sex, as an intense embodied practice, is a strategic case to show this process, this “perceptual loop” between embodied practice and body-sensorial knowledge occurs in all human (inter)actions.

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