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  • Author or Editor: Alicia Denby x
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In this article, we consider how heterosexual young people navigate emotionality in their early dating practices. We draw on the ‘cold intimacy’ thesis (Hochschild, 1994; Illouz, 2007; 2012; 2018) that posits that emotions have increasingly become things to be evaluated, measured, quantified and categorised. Within the context of intimate relationships, research suggests that while young people are often open about the physical aspects of casual sex, they are reluctant to demonstrate emotional attachment, with vulnerability deemed shameful (Wade, 2017). Drawing on in-depth interviews with UK-based dating app users aged 18–25, we find that emotional attachment is rarely articulated, and is seen as a sign of weakness in the early stages of a relationship. For our participants, emotions become bargaining chips, with the ‘winner’ being the party with the least to lose, the least invested and the least emotionally attached. While this applies to both the young men and women interviewed, our findings demonstrate a gendered imbalance of power in intimate relationships, as female participants express a fear of emotional hurt, while male participants work to avoid potential rejection and humiliation. As a result, most connections remain suspended in what we identify as the ‘failed talking stage’. This is underpinned by the removal of channels of accountability, coupled with entrenched heteronormative sexual scripts shaping gender roles at this stage.

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