Flirting with Danger

Young Women's Reflections on Sexuality and Domination

253 pages

November, 2000

ISBN: 9780814766583



Also available in


Lynn M. Phillips is the author of The Girls Report: What We Know and Need to Know about Growing Up Female, commissioned by the National Council for Research on Women, and Planned Parenthood's Unequal Partners: Exploring Power and Consent in Adult-Teen Relationships. She teaches media and gender studies in the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

All books by Lynn Phillips

In Flirting with Danger, Lynn M. Phillips explores how young women make sense of, resist, and negotiate conflicting cultural messages about sexual agency, responsibility, aggression, and desire. How do women develop their ideas about sex, love, and domination? Why do they express feminist views condemning male violence in the abstract, but often adamantly refuse to name their own violent and exploitive encounters as abuse, rape, or victimization?

Based on in-depth individual and collective interviews with a racially and culturally diverse sample of college-aged women, Flirting with Danger sheds valuable light on the cultural lenses through which young women interpret their sexual encounters and their experiences of male aggression in heterosexual relationships.

Phillips makes an important contribution to the fields of female and adolescent sexuality, feminist theory, and feminist method. The volume will also be of particular use to advocates seeking to design prevention and intervention programs which speak to the complex needs of women grappling with questions of sexuality and violence.


  • "The first book to take seriously teenagers' sexual agency and desire in an era where sex has become synonymous with sexual victimization, and fear and anger have clouded over the possibility of delight and sensuality. Phillips leads the way among bright new theorists who work with Latina, African-American, and white voices together to bring to the fields of psychology and gender studies a fresh analysis that preserves the complexity of their hopes and realities surrounding sex."

    —Sharon Lamb, author of the New Versions of Victims: Feminists Struggle with the Concept

  • "Based on narrated experiences of thirty young women, Lynn Phillips takes us up close to their sexual encounters as they ‘flirt with danger,' naming abuse, patriarchy, and female victimization only when they discuss other women, never themselves, although many of those interviewed have been raped and/or in otherwise abusive situations with men. The educative possibilities in Phillips' work are stunning—all those interested in working toward a world in which men and women interact in healthy ways, both sexually and otherwise, must read this book."


  • "Shows how far feminist theory has come and how far it has yet to go. . . . Avoiding simplistic dichotomies, Phillips eloquently negotiates the tricky terrain between female pleasure and male accountability. A brilliant demonstration of how social constructionist theory can serve as a framework for social activism."

    —Rhoda Unger, Montclair State University

  • "A fascinating study of the ways young women of diverse backgrounds interpret heterosexual relations. Phillips, a feminist psychologist committed to research that reveals and resists domination, grapples here with the surprising paradoxes and contradictions expressed in young women's fears, fantasies, beliefs, and desires. Based on careful research and clear analytic argument, Flirting with Danger is a remarkably wise, compassionate, and useful book."

    —Sara Ruddick, author of Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace

  • "Flirting with Danger is well worth the read and is likely to stimulate lively discussion in the classroom. Phillips has a good ear for narrative and a keen sense of the uncertainties and competing forces that shape heterosexual relationships for contemporary young women."

    Psychology of Women Quarterly, Vol. 26