Negotiating women’s sexual empowerment in the context of Tinder dating : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
The postfeminist mediated culture constructs a social world that has accomplished gender equality, where women are free to explore an empowered and liberated sexuality within modern dating spaces, such as online dating. The current study questioned gendered power relations in modern heterosexuality and sought to understand how sexual empowerment is negotiated in the Tinder dating context. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four women aged between 20-30 years-old and who had used Tinder to meet a man for a date in-person. A social constructionist postfeminist critique was employed through a Foucauldian discourse analysis to explore constructions of power that enable and constrain women’s gendered positionings and sexual subjectivities in heterosexual Tinder relationships. Dominant discourses of ‘dating evolving’, ‘Tinder’s sexual marketplace’, ‘happy to be a whore’, ‘girls stand pretty’ and ‘spell it out’ speak to how women navigate complex, contradictory and creative sexual empowerment within the transformative dating space of Tinder’s sexual marketplace. Power shifts between Tinder’s online and offline contexts to complicate gendered norms and reconfigure heterosexual intimacy, enabling women to take up positions of power and control within unscripted and ‘unnatural’ dating spaces. However, understandings of feminine power are complicated within postfeminist and neoliberal dating spaces that construct women’s sexual freedom as an achievable, yet illusive, goal, and where women’s ‘empowerment’ often comes from, or reproduces, their disempowered position within a dating culture that provides the conditions for coercion and violence. Disciplinary power continues to coerce and control women’s agency, however women are challenging a culture that remains embedded in gender stereotypes and power relations and, in doing so, are constructing positions of creative feminine empowerment.