FEMINIST FORUM COMMENTARY
Mobilizing Metaphor: Considering Complexities, Contradictions,
and Contexts in Adolescent Girls’ and Young Women’sSexual
Deborah L. Tolman
Stephanie M. Anderson
Published online: 26 July 2015
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015
Abstract With clarity and elegance, Bay-Cheng (2015) has
provided a solid articulation of how neoliberalism has infil-
trated the sexual lives of many girls and young women.
Without question, research in the U.S. and the Anglophone
West, as well as current trends in popular culture and the
media in these locales, warrant recognizing neoliberal
sexual agency and understanding the variety of ways it
interacts with the slut/prude/virgin continuum. While
some research has evidenced the salience of neoliberal
sexual agency for some adolescent girls, we depart with
Bay-Cheng’s (2015) assertion that developmental and
age differences not be taken into account and question
the primacy of neoliberal sexual agency as a new and
comparable hegemony to the slut/prude/virgin continu-
um. We suggest that there remain other forms of sexual
agency that should not be displaced or disregarded and
wonder whether a paradigm shift from model to meta-
phor may be helpful for capturing the complexity, con-
tradictions and contexts that constitute girls’ and young
Young w omen
That slut has slept with every man in this room!
That girl is such a slut–Ican’t believe that she cheated
on her boyfriend with his best friend!
Look at that slut in her mini-skirt! She is not wearing
Idon’t want to talk to her! I hate that slut!
That slut is easy like Sunday morning.
She has sex, therefore she must be a slut
A woman who likes sex, so she does it.
Slut: a girl who will sleep with anyone.
Slut: none needed. A person of any gender who has the
courage to lead life according to the radical proposition
that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.
–Urban dictionary, definition of Bslut^ (Bslut,^ n.d.)
The emergence in the societal zeitgeist of neoliberalism in
public discourse, the media, and popular culture (i.e., Jones
2014;Morris2013) has been an ongoing challenge and source
of debate for feminist scholars who do research on girls’ and
young women’s sexuality (i.e., Lamb and Peterson 2012;
Ringrose 2013). Neoliberal sexual agency is a much-needed
rendering of the rearticulated social and discursive landscape
within which girls and young women navigate sexuality. Bay-
Cheng’s(2015) articulation of neoliberalism as yielding a
depoliticized, individualized ideology of unfettered choice,
control and attribution of blame, freedom, and responsibility
only to and for girls themselves, obfuscating systems of op-
pression that impinge upon or deny access to their own sexu-
ality, and producing antagonism among girls, is a much-
needed addition to the literature. We applaud Bay-Cheng for
providing a clarifying conceptual lifeline in the Bnew, slippery
* Deborah L. Tolman
Stephanie M. Anderson
The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 365 Fifth
Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA
Sex Roles (2015) 73:298–310