High spirits: young women’s pleasure in the night-time economy

McBride, Amanda (2019) High spirits: young women’s pleasure in the night-time economy. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral thesis)
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This thesis makes significant contributions to scholarship at the intersection of gender, pleasure and the night-time economy (NTE). Specifically, it explores the experience of young women students, who seek pleasure by going on nights out. In the northern city which acts as the location for the research, the NTE has been shaped to provide a 'student scene' characterised by cheap, mid-week drinking. The wealth of research about the risks of alcohol consumption has come to dominate public discourse about young women and the NTE. In contrast, there is a dearth of research/scholarship about the pleasures of nights out and this is where this study makes an original contribution. In focusing on this aspect of drinking culture the thesis complements (and complicates) research oriented around risk and responsibility and contributes to debates on neoliberalism, (post-) feminism and contemporary subjectivities.

Based on seven focus group interviews, with 27 young women students, aged 18- 24, the thesis employs a qualitative methodology, inspired by interpretative phenomenological analysis, to examine their pleasure-seeking in the NTE. I argue that the pleasures of nights out are best understood as coming from experiences of mutuality and I suggest the concept ‘opened out’ subjectivity, to characterise a pleasurable sense of self which is deeply relational. In doing so I present novel perspectives on some central themes of NTE, gender and alcohol research, including the importance of crowds, relationships and presentations of the self.

My analysis revealed that several pleasures of nights out were experienced as a result of managing the reality of gender inequality. Examples of this include the intimacy and close friendships strengthened through caregiving in the context of risk of sexual harassment and violence, and the pleasures of collective beauty work conducted in a cultural context of women’s continued objectification and arguably, subjectification. My analysis of beauty work in particular marks a break with current understandings, moving beyond the often cited ‘post feminism sensibility’, to frame such work as a collectively negotiated pleasure practice, which is both complex and context specific.

The importance of relationships is central to my analysis which foregrounds female friendship against a backdrop of continuing gender inequality in this cultural context. In this way, the thesis advances understandings of gender and alcohol use as situated practices in complex social fields.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: young people’s leisure, alcohol use, subjectivity, Newcastle Upon Tyne, student drinking
Subjects: L700 Human and Social Geography
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 02 May 2023 14:59
Last Modified: 02 May 2023 15:00
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/51560

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