The intersection of dating scripts and Queer Theory: An analysis of dating experiences of gay men in West Texas



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Gay dating scripts have been rarely researched and when these studies have been conducted, there have been significant limitations with their design. In this thesis, I investigate first date encounters experienced by self-identified gay men in West Texas by taking a qualitative approach to understanding participant definitions of dating, as well as dating script behaviors. Within the research, I collected open-ended responses from 75 gay men located in the West Texas region and analyzed the research through a queer theoretical lens and qualitative cluster analysis. Cluster analysis involved close reading the data, open line-by-line coding, the creation of a codebook, peer debriefing, and clustering codes into thematic categories.

After data collection, 211 coded points were clustered around 18 separate thematic categories for dating definitions. Participants provided 630 dating scripts, which proffered 1521 coded data points that clustered around 43 thematic categories. Analysis of data revealed that definitions of dating produced five themes of analysis describing the components of dating, the purposes of a date, definitions of negation, the presence of heteronormativity as well as themes on the queering of dating behaviors in West Texas. Additional analysis on data concerned with dating scripts enacted during a first date found six emergent themes including the use of definitions to inform dating scripts through components and date purpose, assessment as ongoing process through “follow up” and debriefing, role negotiation with(in) the date, recognition of heteronormativity, as well as the performance and realization of queer identity. From these themes, a conceptual model was created and forwarded as means to explain the process of gay male dating scripts.

The data and emergent conceptual model revealed several salient implications. For example, the importance of dating as a social construction was illuminated within the data reported by gay men and when comparing this data with past dating script research. Further, I explicated similarities between gay men and heterosexual dyads stemming from data analysis, which impacts the adoption of heteronormative practices by gay men and the socialization of gay men into heteropatriarchal dating behaviors. Differences between gay men and heterosexual couples revealed important concepts such as the breaking of heterosexual gender roles through assessment, differences between lesbian women and gay male dating behaviors, the use of “coming out” narratives, role negotiation as a process of resistance, the navigation of a heterosexual matrix, as well as tensions between private and public spaces. Moreover, I argued for extending queer theory by carving out discursive space, engaging against homophobic behavior, and calling for queer frameworks to dating guides. Future directions are proffered by outlining constraints and the potential for future research. Constraints of participant inclusion, peer debriefing similarities, as well as the conceptualizing of identity through category construction are reviewed. These constraints and the analysis derived during the study provide opportunities for future research in areas including the use of more intensive qualitative methodological techniques, the expansion to other geographic regions, the extension of the data and method to other areas of queer interpersonal research, and the completion of a more complete model of the first date experience.