Title

FROM SINGLE TO SERIOUS: RELATIONSHIPS, GENDER, AND SEXUALITY AT TWO AMERICAN EVANGELICAL UNIVERSITIES

Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Karen Tice

Abstract

This study investigated the ways in which students attending American evangelical colleges form their heterosexually intimate relationships as well as how they craft gendered and religious performances along the way. Data was generated at two evangelical universities in the southern region of the United States over the 2011-2012 academic year using a combination of qualitative methods, including focus groups, individual interviews, participant observation, artifact analysis, and archival research. Findings suggest students employ a three-phase process, which begins within their peer networks, advances via social media to an intermediate phase, where students assess compatibility in a number of areas, and then potentially progresses into a committed, and oftentimes serious, dating relationship. This process is inherently patriarchal and encourages diffidence as well as shrewdness in many respects related to women’s demeanor, communication, and sexuality. Both women and men utilize a number of gendered and religious strategies to successfully navigate the dating scene amidst the backdrop of an evangelical milieu. Various aspects of campus culture, which influence students’ relational, gendered, and religious practices, are also explored, including the lack of casual dating, modesty expectations, purity imperatives, and an emphasis on (heterosexual) relationships. The implications of which create a high stakes environment surrounding both cross-sex friendships and romantic relationships where sexuality is sidelined and authenticity can be hard to find.

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