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The discursive construction of gay teenagers in times of mediatization: youth's reflections on intimate storytelling, queer shame and realness in popular social media places


gay youth queer social media mediatization focus groups digital media cultures

Publication details

Year: 2015
DOI: 10.1080/13676261.2014.992306
Issued: 2015
Language: English
Volume: 18
Issue: 6
Start Page: 777
End Page: 793
Authors: De Ridder S.; Van Bauwel S.
Type: Journal article
Journal: Journal of Youth Studies
Publisher: Informa UK Limited
Topics: Social mediation; Internet usage, practices and engagement; Access, inequalities and vulnerabilities
Sample: 51 teenagers between 13 and 19 years old from Dutch-speaking Belgium, 33 girls and 18 boys (with their sexual identity unknown)


New media applications such as social networking sites are understood as important evolutions for queer youth. These media and communication technologies allow teenagers to transgress their everyday life places and connect with other queer teens. Moreover, social media websites could also be used for real political activism such as publicly sharing coming out videos on YouTube. Despite these increased opportunities for self-reflexive storytelling on digital media platforms, their everyday use and popularity also bring particular complexities in the everyday lives of young people. Talking to 51 youngsters between 13 and 19 years old in focus groups, this paper inquires how young audiences discursively constructed meanings on intimate storytelling practices such as interpreting intimate stories, reflecting on their own and other peers’ intimate storytelling practices. Specifically focusing on how they relate to intimate storytelling practices of gay peers, this paper identified particular challenges for queer youth who transgress the heteronormative when being active on popular social media. The increasing mediatization of intimate youth cultures brings challenges for queer teenagers, which relate to authenticity, (self-) surveillance and fear of imagined audiences.


"Discourses on homosexuality were attached to media cultural complexities in popular social media places. Accepting/supportive and silently homophobic discourses were built around cultures privileging heterosexuality, which were more concerned with authenticity in mediated places when it comes to being ‘honest’ about your sexual identity. Silent homophobia is seen as a discourse that is not supportive or accepting towards gay identities, but strongly privileges heterosexuality. Mediatized complexities in queer teenagers’ everyday lives could not be sufficiently understood without contextualizing particular cultural contexts of homosexuality-themed language, ranging from homohysteria to a gay-friendly culture. None of the participants relied on discourses of homohysteric cultures, which reproduce strong homophobic language. But rather departed from a cultural context privileging heterosexuality, while others relied on gay-friendly cultures. Discourses of silent homophobia have a clearer intent towards privileging heterosexuality mostly through gender policing, possibly resulting in a negative social effect. This is in strong contrast to the discourses that rely on gay-friendly cultures, which deconstructed binary oppositions such as straight/gay and masculinity/femininity. This leaves queer teens with a complex set of norms and dilemmas of how to behave in popular social media places when thinking about peer group acceptance and what to do about coming out online." (De Ridder & Van Bauwel, 2015, pp. 785-790)

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