This article explores the relationship between methodologies used for sex research and the way sex is represented in everyday life. Drawing on a cross-generational study of heterosexuality, this article asks how the relationship between researcher and participant contributes to the production of knowledge around sexuality and how this then relates to the practices and concepts which constitute ‘sex’. Working amongst women and men aged between 15 and 90, analysis involves comparing data drawn from interviews where a 60-year age gap may separate the researcher and the participant; and those where both are similarly aged. Questions addressed within the article include: Does the researcher’s adaptation of her sexual terminology reflect sensitivity or ageism? How might it direct rather than enable the speaker? How can the data be interpreted as an account of sexual experience? How have participants sought to represent experience which they found emotionally charged, taboo or have difficulty translating into words? What the article argues, therefore, is that an adequate analysis of such data can be achieved only if they are recognised as the outcome of complex layers of social negotiation between two individuals whose aged, gendered and class-based identities are sometimes shared and, sometimes, widely divergent.
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