"It's black and white, but it's murky" : exploring young women's understanding of consent and desire and their experience of sexual violence prevention efforts located in the wider sociocultural context of New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University (Manawatu), New Zealand

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Sexual violence is a pervasive and devastating issue disproportionately affecting the lives of young women globally and here in New Zealand. Most school-based sexual violence prevention programmes focus on communication skills related to consent without acknowledging the complex demands, expectations, and constraints related to young women's sexuality under patriarchal and neoliberal values. Grounded in feminist standpoint epistemology, this research is themed on 'tuning in' to the voices of young women privileging their experiences as legitimate sources of knowledge. Seven young women (18–24-year-olds) who experienced a specific sexual violence prevention programme (Mates & Dates) shared their stories to explore their understanding and experience of consent and desire. In-depth interviews via narrative inquiry and thematic analysis highlight the pervasive messages of heteronormativity and associated gendered roles across their sociocultural worlds which limit the formation of sexuality and desire and perpetuates sexual violence. Traversing multiple standpoints of sexual identity, these women's stories clearly highlight the complex contextual and relational elements which occlude women's ability to firstly come to know their wants and needs associated with desire, and secondly to be able to communicate them freely. The young women's sociocultural worlds in school, at home, online, and among peers were 'handing on the gatekeeper keys' and leaving them at risk and unprepared to navigate the 'grey area'. Without adequate sexuality education/sexuality prevention programmes or support from parents, they were left unsupported and unprepared. This research reinforces the requirement for any sexual violence prevention or sex positive initiatives to recognise the murky context of these young women's realities where 'freedom to' express desire and consent requires the facilitation of 'freedom from' the socialisation of patriarchal and neoliberal constraints; both as critically important as each other (Fahs, 2019). The young women's recommendations are discussed in line with research which reaches past simplistic, risk-based and communication strategies, to a more community specific, integrated, and expansive framework for facilitating young people’s relationships which transcend simplistic heteronormative constraints. By providing young women's voice to the issues that deeply impact them, there is space for resistance, opportunity, and expansion related to sexuality so they can "see themselves".