Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This study explored women's fluid sexuality by asking the following question: Do women who have had sexual encounters with both women and men experience different power dynamics based on their partners' gender? There was minimal literature devoted to this topic. Past research focused on gender differences within relationships, violence used as a resource of power in heterosexual and lesbian relationships, theory written on relational therapy, and articles on female sexual fluidity. Eleven women from San Francisco were interviewed to explore their thoughts and feelings on how they experienced different power dynamics during sexual encounters with women and men. The interviews and findings were guided by six areas of inquiry including demographics, how gender affects power dynamics during sexual encounters with women and men, what constitutes as sex, participants' sexuality in reference to their sexual orientation and identity, how power dynamics, from a relational perspective, are played out during sexual encounters with women and men and, how participants' cultural backgrounds influenced their sexuality and power dynamics during sexual encounters. The study found a considerable variation among the participants' experiences on how gender affects power dynamics, definitions of sex, issues of sexual identity, and power relations. All participants' experiences were extremely subjective according to their individual characteristics and the partners in these sexual encounters Nearly all participants felt there were varying power dynamics during sexual encounters with women and men. Implications for social work practice, biases and recommendations for future research were considered.


iii, 81 p. : col. ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2007. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 67-69).