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Examining the role of digital mediation in women’s sexual identity : a constructivist grounded theory study

MacRae, Sheena Elizabeth


Sheena Elizabeth MacRae


Mark (Professor of nursing and health research) Hayter


This thesis outlines findings from a study exploring how women over 35 conceptualise their sexual identities in the digital age. As the literature lacked qualitative analysis of this aspect of adult women’s lives the research was designed using principles of Constructivist Grounded Theory methodology (Charmaz, 2014). The study asked ‘What role does the online world play in the way adult women construct their sexual identities?’. Nineteen women (age range 38-73) were interviewed using a semi-structured approach about their sexual and online lives. Key elements of Constructivist grounded theory methodology (Charmaz, 2014) were employed to interrogate the data in a constant comparison process of coding, categorising, memo production, theoretical sampling, core category construction and theory development. Three core categories were constructed from the data illustrating sexual identity was temporally developed as a concept through context and experience, that online life developed similarly refining over time and specific online behaviours were identified which supported sexual identity. The core categories within the findings were then contextualised within a Bourdieuian frame with reference to a model of habitus suggested by Decoteau (2016). The study offers insight into the nature of agentic sexual behaviour in women and the structural mechanisms within a patriarchal society which can, and do, serve to inhibit this agency. In this way the work of the study reveals both the social heteronormative elements which can inhibit or obstruct women’s capacity to find their sexual identities, and also demonstrated, through a reflexive sexual habitus, the capacity for online means to contribute structurally against these negative forces; particularly for LGBT women and heterosexual women with specific issues to address. This specificity given to terminology used to describe sexual life in this work provides much needed clarity within the study of sexuality and will be of benefit to further research in the field.


MacRae, S. E. (2019). Examining the role of digital mediation in women’s sexual identity : a constructivist grounded theory study. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 23, 2020
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Health studies
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Health Studies, The University of Hull
Award Date Nov 1, 2019


Thesis (2.4 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2019 MacRae, Sheena Elizabeth. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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