Affect in language, gender, and sexuality research

Studying heterosexual desire

Authored by: Kristine Køhler Mortensen , Tommaso M. Milani

The Routledge Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality

Print publication date:  April  2021
Online publication date:  April  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138200265
eBook ISBN: 9781315514857
Adobe ISBN:


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In this chapter, we take a poststructuralist approach to gender, sexuality, and the realm of the affective. While there are of course many different emotions that may be relevant to gender and sexuality, this chapter focuses on the discursive construction of heterosexual desire in a particular context – online dating. Empirically, we study heterosexual desire through an investigation of two female friends browsing, reading, and commenting on male online profiles. By analysing these meaning-making practices, we demonstrate how desire is what lies beside and enables the discursive construction of identities in a homosocial context. Ultimately, our argument is that by studying affect it is possible to bring to the fore what has previously been viewed as ‘hidden’, belonging to the ‘private sphere’ or the realm of an ‘inner psychic life’, and therefore dismissed as too slippery a terrain for scholars of language. It is our hope that this chapter demonstrates that what is ‘hidden’ is actually in plain sight. One needs to read the data with an affective eye.

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