‘Dulling it down a bit’: managing visibility, sexualities and risk in the night time economy in Newcastle, UK

Emily Nicholls

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Drawing on qualitative interviews with young women in the UK, this paper highlights how gendered and sexualised negotiations of visibility intersect and continue to be important in the ways in which young women self-regulate bodies and identities to manage risk in the Night Time Economy (NTE). Adopting visible markers of normative, heterosexual femininity on a night out can be understood as simultaneously mitigating against the risks of experiencing certain types of harassment, whilst increasing the risks of experiencing others. This paper reaffirms the relevance of negotiations of visibility in shaping non-heterosexual women’s dress as a strategy for managing the risk of homophobic abuse and demonstrate some of the ways in which all young women – regardless of actual or perceived sexual identification - are required to police their bodies in order to manage the additional risks of ‘heterosexualised’ harassment in the NTE. These include threats of sexual violence and harassment primarily associated with women’s positioning as subordinated gendered subjects rather than with the policing of ‘non-normative’ sexualities, with findings suggesting that young women are more concerned with managing the risks associated with a heterosexualised male gaze rather than a homophobic gaze. ‘Everyday’ experiences of harassment are trivialised and normalised in bar and club spaces, and adopting markers of normative, heterosexual femininity was felt to increase the risks of receiving this kind of ‘unwanted attention’. Clearly, young women face challenges as they attempt to negotiate femininities, sexualities and safety and manage intersections of gender and sexuality in contemporary leisure spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-273
JournalGender, Place & Culture
Issue number2
Early online date8 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • visibility
  • risk
  • sexualities
  • femininities
  • Night Time Economy
  • heterosexuality
  • RCUK
  • ESRC
  • ESRC/1116903


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