Thou shalt not covet another man? Exploring constructions of same-sex and different-sex infidelity using story completion

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Clarke, V. ; Braun, V. ; Wooles, K. (2015)

This study explores conceptualisations of same- versus different-sex infidelity in the context of a heterosexual marriage using story completion. A convenience sample of 57 female and male participants completed one of four versions of a story stem featuring a husband who is either emotionally or sexually unfaithful with a woman or a man. A social constructionist thematic analysis found that same-sex infidelity was conceptualised as the ‘worst case scenario’ and was underpinned by a heteronormative framing of repressed homosexuality. By contrast, heterosexual infidelity was understood in terms of relational deficits and the wife assuming responsibility for these. Overall, the analysis shows that in making sense of same-sex and heterosexual infidelity, the participants drew on familiar discourses of sexuality and gender, suggesting that despite social psychological theorising related to sexual fluidity, essentialist ideas remain firmly in place. Methodologically, the study demonstrates the usefulness of a rarely-used tool – the story completion task – for accessing socio-cultural discourses and dominant meanings surrounding a particular topic.
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