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1 From there, topics ranged at IOWA STATE UNIV on July 13, 2011 gas.sagepub.com Downloaded from
300      GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2011 from their experiences with their children’s pubertal changes, to issues and advice about teen dating, to questions that addressed the extent and content of conversations about sexual issues. We also asked fathers if they had talked with their child or children in general about sexual orientation— about being gay, straight, or bisexual. If, in response to this question, a father was not forthcoming about his feelings about his teen child’s or children’s sexual identity, we followed up with, “Have you ever wondered about your [son’s/daughter’s] sexual orientation?” and “How would you feel if your [son/daughter] told you [he/she] was gay?” We made no mention of sexual orientation before this question, although by previously mentioning sex as a topic, some fathers may have anticipated talking about sexual orientation. However, the questions clearly surprised some fathers possibly because they thought they had already established their teens as heterosexual and/or because their heteronormative assumptions precluded thinking about the possibility that their children might be gay. We relied on inductive coding to identify themes and patterns in our inter- views (Charmaz 2006). We manually coded the data—conducting several readings of the transcripts and the field notes we wrote immediately following each interview. For this analysis, the first author used a line-by-line coding method to identify concepts and paid particular attention to instances where a father mentioned his own beliefs about gender and sexuality, perceptions of and feelings about his child’s or children’s sexual and gender displays, and descriptions of his communication with his teen or teens about sexuality. Both authors then discussed and honed the coding categories and developed the analysis. While we make no claims of generalizability based on our con- venience sample, we believe the study does provide insight into the pro- cesses of heteronormativity in the context of shifting, frequently contested gender and sexual landscapes. FATHERS’ ACCOUNTS OF FAMILY SEXUAL COMMUNICATION Although many fathers mentioned talking briefly over the years about issues related to puberty, dating, and sex with their children, when we asked about the details of these conversations, they often could not remember. For instance, Brett stated, “I haven’t really sat down and talked to him about ‘Here’s what to expect. Here’s what’s going to happen to you.’” Indeed, of the 23 fathers, 16 made it clear that they have had very few explicit dis- cussions about sexual issues with their children, presuming they get this information from other sources. Garth’s response was typical: “Apparently at IOWA STATE UNIV on July 13, 2011 gas.sagepub.com Downloaded from
Solebello, Elliott / FATHERS TALK ABOUT THEIR TEEN CHILDREN’S SEXUALITY     301 he’s got sex education from the schools, friends, wherever. . . . I figured I learned about it, all kids learn about it. . . . [W]e haven’t had those conver-

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