Exploring factors influencing the expression of sexuality in UK-born South Asian women: A phenomenological approach
AffiliationFaculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing
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AbstractBelonging to a South Asian family in Britain does not come without struggles. One theme that has dominated the literature on South Asian families is the amalgamation of two cultural value systems between the East and the West: Two cultural scripts, prescribing contradictory lifestyles - particularly in the context of dating and intimacy. In an individualistic country like Britain, dating and the expression of sexuality are acceptable behaviours. However, in collectivistic South Asian cultures, where family needs dominate, these behaviours can be considered as being culturally deviant and posing a direct threat to the family honour. Using semi-structured interviews with six participants, this research aimed to explore the sexual experiences of British South Asian women and to illuminate how choices around sexual activity impact cultural belonging. The study used interpretive phenomenological analysis revealing six themes. The first theme, ‘keeping up appearances’ highlights pressures that participants experience in relation to upholding an image of modesty, and factors which may contribute to leading a double life. The second theme, ‘upbringing and expectations’ considers rules that the participants had been brought up with and how these have changed over time, also considering implications and challenges participants described experiencing as a result of these. ‘Gender inequality’ is the third theme, which highlights differences in treatment and expectations for males and females that participants have experienced. The fourth theme: ‘empowerment’, focuses on how the participants’ engagement and communication with their partner became an empowering factor within sexual relationships, which supported the participants to feel equal. Theme five, ‘self-discovery’, identifies the participants taking control of their own sexual pleasure and exploration, and factors which contributed to their decision- making. The final theme: ‘sisterhood of trust’, focuses on who the participants trust to share their experiences of intimacy with, and the reasons behind feeling comfortable with these relationships. Findings support and advance existing research which highlight that British South Asian women in the UK experience the pressure to be perceived as a ‘good girl’ by the family and wider community, often leading to living a double life. Although experiences are changing over time, there is still a sense of gender inequality in the form of sexual double standards. However, in private areas of their lives, participants were able to explore and feel empowered by their sexuality, and even found ways to express it, whether this was with a partner or close trusted friends. This study provides recommendations for counselling psychologists, by raising awareness of factors impacting difficulties in discourse around sexuality. Counselling psychologists can encourage others to speak more openly and to normalise such conversations, and in the long term, this has the potential to inform more appropriate interventions within therapy, tailored to specific ethnic minorities.
CitationSamra, R. (2022) Exploring factors influencing the expression of sexuality in UK-born South Asian women: A phenomenological approach. Wolverhampton: University of Wolverhampton. http://hdl.handle.net/2436/625123
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the School of Psychology, The University of Wolverhampton for the Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology.
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