School of Psychology - Leading psychological science, scholarship and practice
Phone: +64 9 373 7599 ext 87561
Fax: +64 9 373 7450
Room: HSB 621
I have been working in the School of Psychology since early 2001, and my work spans the areas of gender/critical, social and health psychology. I did my PhD at Loughborough University (UK) in the Department of Social Sciences, which specialises in critical - discursive and feminist/LGBTQ – (social) psychology. Before that, I did my Masters and my undergraduate degrees here at The University of Auckland. I was on the Trust Board of Women’s Health Action for many years, and since 2007, have been the editor (with Nicola Gavey, also in the school) of the journal Feminism & Psychology (Sage, UK) which specialises in critical gender scholarship.
In my research, I am interested in examining the relationship between the social, the scientific and the individual, in relation to bodies, sexuality and health. My research examines the influence of culture and society on individual choices, thoughts, feelings and behaviours, as well as on broader issues like public health policy and practice. My research is specifically influenced by feminist, social constructionist, and discursive theory and practice, and tends to employ qualitative methodologies. I am engaged in three main projects related to (women's) health, sexuality, the body, and popular culture: These projects are ‘the social contexts of STI transmission’, ‘female genital cosmetic surgery’, and ‘sexuality in higher education’. Previous research has been on ‘sexual coercion among gay and bisexual men’, ‘sex in long-term relationships’, 'the vagina', cervical cancer (prevention policy), and safer heterosex. Details of all current and previous projects, and publications from them, can be found below.
In addition, I am interested in questions of research, and am working with Dr Victoria Clarke (University of the West of England, UK) on the area of ‘thematic analysis’, and writing a book on qualitative research (for Sage).
The Social Contexts of STI Transmission and Discourses of (Hetero)sexual Health
In New Zealand, STI rates are high, and rising. This research was designed to gather in-depth knowledge relating to ideas about sexual risk, sexual safety, STIs, and sexual protections (such as condoms) from younger members of the population, in relation to heterosex, in order to better identify strategies for prevention. It also aimed to gather and collate the insights of people working professionally in the area, from a varied range of perspectives. It involved a combination of Key Informant interviews and focus groups with people who have heterosex. The project was funded by a University of Auckland Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award of $35,000.
Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery
In recent years, cosmetic surgery has become increasingly specific in the body sites that are subject to surgery (e.g., the navel, toes, vocal chords). Women’s genitalia have been part of this diversification & specification, and a diverse range of procedures can be classified as female genital cosmetic surgery (FGCS), undertaken primarily for aesthetic reason. As yet, little academic work has examined FGCS, the ways in which it is understood, promoted, and the public discourse about it. This research aims to critically examine FGCS, the discourses and constructions around it, and the ways it is enabled and promoted. It analyses media coverage, interviews with surgeons who do the procedures, and surgeon websites. The project was funded by a University of Auckland Staff Research Grant of $6,700.
Sexuality and/in Higher Education (with Victoria Clarke, The University of the West of England)
While the time at university can be immensely liberating and eye-opening for individuals, higher education in general, and the classroom in particular, can be a very heteronormative space; a place limiting to those who do not identify has straight. Research has demonstrated various adverse effects on LGBTQ youth, but other stories are starting to emerge This project examines the experiences of those working and learning within (mainly) psychology, who do not identify as straight, with the aim of developing more inclusive and rewarding tertiary education contexts.
Sex in Long-Term Relationships
Long-term relationships are framed in both public and sex therapy discourse as a potential impediment to a ‘good’ sex life, with supposed declines in such areas as sexual spontaneity, frequency, and compatible levels of desire. These are all framed negatively, and something to be circumvented, due to links between sexual satisfaction, overall relationship satisfaction and maintenance, and mental health. However, little research has examined the. This research aimed to obtain and examine detailed narratives about the meaning and place of sex, and other forms of physical and other intimacy, within long-term relationships, or how individuals struggle with, and resist, or comply with, broader cultural messages about how they should be. It involved 54 interviews, with men and women, in same-sex and opposite-sex relationships. This project was funded by a University of Auckland Staff Research Grant of $14,724.
Unwanted Sex among Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) (with John Fenaughty (PI) and Nicola Gavey)
Rape, sexual coercion, and other experiences of unwanted sex between MSM is an under-researched, and often unacknowledged, area of sexual violence and abuse. The lack of knowledge about the experiences, impacts and understandings of unwanted sex among MSM places men’s health, wellbeing, and indeed safety at unnecessary risk. This project was designed to obtain a detailed understanding of MSM’s experiences and understandings in this area, with the aim of promoting sexual health and wellbeing, enabling interventions, and preventing all forms of unwanted sex among MSM. It has involved Key Informant interviews, interviews with men who have experienced unwanted sex with other men, and focus groups with groups of MSM discussing these issues. The project was funded by a NZ Health Research Council grant of $99,928, and a Lotteries Grants Board Health grant of $23,055.
The Social Construction of the Vagina
This research was my doctoral research, supervised by Sue Wilkinson & Celia Kitzinger & Loughborough University. The research considered an area that had barely been explored in psychological (or any other social science) research – what the vagina ‘is’ and ‘means’ within society, and how women experience their genitalia. To do so, I examined a range of socio-cultural texts and products (e.g., dictionary entries, slang) and accounts from 58 women about their experiences of having a vagina.
Heterosex and the Coital Imperative
This project explored the meanings around different heterosexual sexual practices, through individual interviews with 15 women and 15 men. The aim was explore possibilities of approaches to sexual health promotion broader than (just) the use of condoms for heterosexual intercourse.
Cervical Cancer Prevention Policy in New Zealand
This research was done for my Master’s, supervised by Nicola Gavey. In it, I examined the influences on cervical cancer prevention in New Zealand, and specifically aimed to understand why primary prevention initiates (e.g., around HPV) were not part of policy.
- Braun, V. (2010). Female genital cosmetic surgery: a critical review of current knowledge and contemporary debates. Journal of Women’s Health, 19(7), 1393-1407.
- Braun, V., & Tiefer, L. (2010). The ‘designer vagina’ and the pathologisation of female genital diversity: interventions for change. Radical Psychology, 18(1) [online http://www.radicalpsychology.org/vol8-1/brauntiefer.html].
- Braun, V. (2009). “The women are doing it for themselves”: The rhetoric of choice and agency around female genital ‘cosmetic surgery’. Australian Feminist Studies, 24 (60), 233-249.
- Braun, V., Terry, G., Gavey, N., & Fenaughty, J. (2009). ‘Risk’ and sexual coercion among gay and bisexual men in Aotearoa/New Zealand – key informant accounts. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 11(2), 111-124.
- Clarke, V. & Braun, V. (2009). Gender. In D. Fox, I. Prilleltensky, & S. Austin (Eds.), Critical Psychology (2nd ed). London: Sage.
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