agency, constraints, and the linguistic negotiation of identity and desire in online personal advertisements among men seeking men


  • Chris VanderStouwe Boise State University




agency, constraint, identity, desire, msm


Despite a robust literature on agency in language, gender, and sexuality research, constraints on agency as seen through multiple layers of identity, conflict, or construct are less clearly discussed. Through an analysis of straightidentified men seeking other men on a popular internet personal advertisement forum, I examine the language that individuals posting in men-seeking-men online personals employ to balance a self-presentation as a straight male while simultaneously seeking same-sex partners. To do so, I build upon current conceptualisations of agency to focus on the linguistic manipulation and negotiation of the constraints to their agentive abilities to construct identities and desires. These discursive negotiations serve to separate one's identity from one's desires in terms of space, time, and agency and create a nuanced understanding of these men's sexuality.

Author Biography

Chris VanderStouwe, Boise State University

Dr Chris VanderStouwe is a lecturer in linguistics and gender studies in the Department of English at Boise State University. His research lies in sociocultural linguistics, especially at the intersections of language with sexuality and identity. His work has included research on safe spaces in university settings and straight-identified men and constructions of gender and sexual identities. His current work includes projects involving queering the digital linguistic landscape and a large, long-term ethnography in a local drag performance community focusing on language and performativity within and among community members.


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How to Cite

VanderStouwe, C. (2019). ‘Straight-ish’: agency, constraints, and the linguistic negotiation of identity and desire in online personal advertisements among men seeking men. Gender and Language, 13(1), 122–145. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.30939