Hunsicker and Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, MacArthur Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies, with Hunsicker’s poster at the Eastern Sociological Society annual meeting.

Madeline Hunsicker ’15 is one of six undergraduate winners of the Eastern Sociological Society‘s Undergraduate Poster Session Award for her honors thesis in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Her project, titled “Swipe: Affective and Experiential Implications of the First Sex Act,” was chosen from a pool of approximately 150 posters. She presented her poster at the annual meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society, Feb. 26-March 1, in New York City.

Hunsicker examined the socially constructed concept of virginity and its variety of archival and current connotations, including power, liberation, and patriarchy. As she explained via e-mail, she used “a queer theoretical framework and dynamic narrative analysis to examine the narrative enactment of discourses used in talking about, teaching, and remembering sex and pleasure for young women in the United States.”

Using data from five focus groups and five follow-up interviews with self-identified female Colby students, Hunsicker explored how young women use impression management strategies to shape their strategic narratives of their first sex act, and how participants use symbolic boundary work to mark the definitions of good and bad sex. She then identified how these techniques limit the ability for continuing pedagogies of sex for both participants and their friends. Hunsicker grounded this work in a critical discourse analysis of Cosmopolitan sex advice Q&A columns from 2010 to 2013 in order to explore informal pedagogies of sex that impact participants’ ongoing sexual knowledge.