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This paper contributes to debates on post-feminism and the constitution of contemporary femininity via an exploration of young women’s alcohol consumption and their involvement in normative drinking cultures. We view femininity as a profoundly contradictory and dilemmatic space which appears almost impossible for girls or young women to inhabit. The juxtaposition of hyper-sexual femininity and the culture of intoxication produces a particularly difficult set of dilemmas for young women. They are exhorted to be sassy and independent – but not feminist; to be ‘up for it’ and to drink and get drunk alongside young men – but not to ‘drink like men’. They are also called on to look and act as agentically sexy within a pornified night-time economy, but to distance themselves from the troubling figure of the ‘drunken slut’. Referring to recent research on young women’s alcohol consumption and our own study on young adults’ involvement in the culture of intoxication in the UK, we consider the ways in which young women manage to inhabit this terrain, and the implications for contemporary feminism and safer drinking initiatives.
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