Photo of Rachel WoodRachel Wood


Reseach interests include: Gender, Sexualities, Femininity, Consumption, Material Cultures, Space, Place, Feminism, Postfeminism, Sexual Cultures, Taste, Sex work

My thesis is titled 'Consumer Sexualities: Women and Sex Shopping'

The thesis investigates contemporary neoliberal sexual cultures through the lens of British women’s experiences of buying and using sexual commodities. The continuing expansion of the consumer market into women’s sex lives forms part of a wider postfeminist and neoliberal cultural discourse of sexual choice, empowerment and freedom. Sex shops and erotic products sell aspirational sexual lifestyles while at the same time reiterating narrow, homogenous representations of women’s bodies and desires. Sexual consumer culture offers women what Foucault calls ‘techniques of the self’: a language, set of knowledge, and field of expertise through which the sexual self must learn to articulate itself in order to become intelligible.


Using data from qualitative interviews and accompanied shopping trips I argue that women use a diverse range of discursive, embodied and everyday strategies in order to ‘make do’ with the kinds of femininity and female sexuality that sex shop culture represents. Sex shopping culture incites and requires women to perform their sexualities through an often narrow and depoliticised discourse of sexual consumerism. This exerts forms of pressure and anxiety which women respond to in both conformist and critical ways. Moreover, the products and practises offered by sex shopping can be taken up in ways that may be playful, unpredictable and potentially resistant. The thesis investigates three key spheres of social and everyday life at which sexual consumer culture is negotiated: spaces (the location, layout and experience of sex shops); bodies (the forms of bodily ‘becoming’ offered by wearing lingerie in sexual contexts); and objects (using sex toys and the enabling and disabling of possibilities for sexual pleasures and practices).