Qualitative interviews with 15 Australian women who engage in non-romantic sex demonstrate that women choose a variety of non-romantic sexual arrangements and activities. A discourse analysis examined the ways in which the women position
themselves relative to dominant constructions of femininity and heterosexuality, themselves embedded in neoliberal, post-feminist assumptions of women’s unproblematic capacity for individual empowerment, choice and sexual freedom. Despite choosing non-normative sexual encounters, the women were frequently constrained by the gendered hetero-normative discourses of hetero monogamy and gender differences. The analysis demonstrates that the conventions of heterosex implicit in both of these discourses subordinate the legitimacy of women’s sexual agency, sexual desire and sexual entitlement. Although the women resisted these constructions with varying levels of success, we argue that they cannot be resisted outright because women have no discourse to draw upon which encapsulates an empowered female sexual agency. Thus, women who have non-romantic sex frequently internalise the discourses of hetero monogamy and gender differences, posing serious risks to their sexual health, both physically and emotionally. For women to ensure their sexual health, conventional constructions of female sexuality need to be challenged at a societal level.