Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (UNL) Conference System, 1st Non-Monogamies and Contemporary Intimacies Conference

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'Infidelity', 'cheating' or a 'bit on the side'? Examining constructions of contemporary western experiences of extra-relational sexual involvement.
Shahin Payam, Panteá Farvid, Deborah Payne

##manager.scheduler.building##: B Tower
##manager.scheduler.room##: T12
Date: 2015-09-27 02:30 PM – 04:00 PM
Last modified: 2015-08-08


Extra-relational sexual involvement (ERSI) refers to engaging in sexual contact with someone other than one’s exclusive romantic/sexual/monogamous partner (often referred to as [sexual] ‘infidelity’ or ‘cheating’). ERSI occupies a contradictory site within western culture – it is both widespread, yet seen as unacceptable. The un/acceptability of ERSI, and its social and cultural repercussions, are linked to dominant constructions of what constitutes appropriate relational practices and male and female heterosexuality. Despite acknowledgement that ERSI can have a life changing impact, and trigger strong emotions and reactions, there is little known about the experience of those who have engaged in it. This presentation draws on data collected for a larger constructionist analysis of ERSI amongst heterosexuals in New Zealand. Thirty-six in-depth responses to an open-ended qualitative questionnaire were analysed using a synthesised version of discourse analysis. In the analysis presented, we locate and deconstruct the multiple discourses in the texts, identifying broad cultural discourses and discursive subject positions offered by the respondents. We also explore the contractions and tensions the discourses produced for the speakers as well as examining the ways they managed a “decent” personhood in the face of engaging in what might be considered morally suspect sexual practices.