Publication details [#61080]

Jackson, Clare. 2016. ‘I sort of did stuff to him’. A case study of tellability and taboo in young people’s talk about sex. Narrative Inquiry 26 (1) : 150–170.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This article presents a conversation analytic examination of a telephone call in which a teenage girl updates her friend about developments in a relationship. The telling is in three phases, from initial reluctance, through first kiss to first sexual contact. Drawing on the notion of lower and upper bounded tellability, this article analyses the talk for what is constructed as tellable and as taboo. Eminently tellable, the kiss is a directly named activity, details are sought, and it is assessed in a delighted way. In contrast, the sexual activity is not named and instead is referred to as ‘stuff’. The details of ‘stuff’ are not pursued, and the activity is assessed with (playful) disapproval. The telling speaks to normative gendered sexual expectations for teenage girls in the UK. In talking about personal experience of sexual conduct but without talking in any detail, these speakers position themselves as morally respectable.