Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, Faculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
This study investigates how sexuality and sexual pleasure are interpreted and experienced by young married women in contemporary Vietnam. To this end, twenty professionally educated women aged between 25 and 40 currently living in Hanoi were recruited through various media to participate in semi-structured interviews. This method was supplemented with documentary analysis of Lita Am, a contemporary magazine for Vietnamese women. Thematic analysis suggests that pleasure is currently being interpreted by respondents as an accessory to a discourse of 'modernity-as-fashion statement'. Thus, by embracing notions of pleasure pursuit and the achievement of this aim, many of them wish to stake a claim for modem status and are subsequently working to promote the idea that they are no longer traditional in this particular domain of social life. The ambiguities of this new freedom, brought about by this progressive discourse of sexual pleasure, have, to some extent, allowed these 'modem' women a path to strategically negotiate traditional interpretations of sexuality and gender roles within their spousal relationships. However, the wider social forces traditionally associated with Vietnamese gender ideology remain firmly in place, continuing to affect their everyday lives as working wives and mothers as well as their pursuit of pleasure as wellbeing in its fullest sense. Therefore, 'matrimonial duties' are still being tactically negotiated on an individual basis to maintain the harmony of the family unit.
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