The management of heterosexist talk: Conversational resources and prejudiced claims

S. A. Speer, J. Potter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


This article criticizes current psychological work on 'heterosexism', highlighting the way its operationalization tends to obscure flexible discursive practices and settle them into stable, causal attitudes within individuals. It studies extracts from a variety of sources where sexuality is made relevant (in describing someone as a 'poof' or a 'dyke', for example), and considers (a) how interactants attend to 'heterosexism' in their talk and (b) what such 'attending to' is doing interactionally. The analysis highlights four of the resources speakers use to manage such talk: (i) discounting heterosexism; (ii) displaying a lack of understanding; (iii) softening the blow; and (iv) conceding positive features. It is argued that heterosexist utterances do not have their negativity built into them, but become prejudicial, troublesome or otherwise for participants in situ, as their sense is produced and negotiated. The article concludes with a discussion of the wider implications of this type of research for psychological approaches to (what are typically conceived as) 'ideological' or 'cognitive' phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-572
Number of pages30
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Attitude
  • Conversation analysis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Discursive psychology
  • Heterosexism
  • Homophobia
  • Prejudice
  • Sexuality


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