At the core of Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is a struggle over the nature of sexuality. The story is set in 1960s America, a time when sexual mores were being questioned, adolescent sexuality hotly debated, and conventional roles for women challenged. In the psychosexual drama between the female adolescent protagonist and her male predator, the story explores how the repressive attitude toward sexuality in mainstream society not only jeopardizes a woman's sense of self but is also linked to sexual violence and violence in general toward women.
Arnold Friend represents a notion of sexuality as a form of mastery and control.
Connie represents the detrimental effects of a culture that views women as sexual objects to be looked at, desired, and owned – but not as desiring subjects in their own right.