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date: 02 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Sociolinguists have investigated the language of sexual violence and consent at length, but sexual pleasure remains largely overlooked. Sexual pleasure has often been forgotten in the battle against rape culture, but this discussion centers it. First, relevant concepts from the sociolinguistic scholarship are positioned alongside queer feminist conceptions of sexual pleasure. The discussion then turns to New Zealand case studies of conversations in intimate friendships about sexual pleasure to demonstrate how navigating conflicting discourses transforms sexual pleasure into a neoliberal project. A critical response is offered in a consideration of pleasure activism and how further sociolinguistic attention can harness the political power of pleasure. Sexual pleasure is a significant contributor to advancing sexual liberation, and sociolinguistic efforts to understand these complexities are important. Without paying attention to how sexual experiences are made sense of in intimate conversations, there is a risk of ensnaring pleasure in traps of faux empowerment discourse and neoliberal constraints.

Keywords: empowerment, feminism, intimacy, neoliberal, queer, sexual pleasure, New Zealand

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