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Title: 'Children ask the Damnedest Questions': Sex(uality) Education as a Social Problem
Contributor(s): Scott, John  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2005
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Abstract: The problem of 'sex education' has regularly engaged groups seeking to regulate morals. Concern over sex education is symptomatic of ongoing anxieties that have beset modernity about governing social life in what appear to be increasingly anomic, fragile and disordered environments (Hunt 1999: 10-11). Discourses of sex education are important because they include and exclude, empower and disqualify, facilitate and stigmatise. Although discourses of sex education can operate in an explicit manner, openly describing acceptable and unacceptable practice, often the work of governing sexuality is conducted in a subtle manner. For example, the mere encouragement and incitement of certain acts may imply the curtailment and abandonment of other acts (Porter & Hall 1985: 9). Sex education not only denies and condemns sexual expression, but actively creates sexual subjectivity. In this way, sex education has functioned at a normalising level, speaking in terms of the average, clean, healthy, and natural. Normalising discourses have constructed a field of sexuality that describes what sex is and how it is or should be experienced, linking sexual conduct to specific areas of social life, such as health and well-being. Another criticism of sex education is that it operates at a moralistic or ideological level. Sex education courses have historically been characterised by themes of chastity, monogamy, and reproduction, emphasising the significance of the nuclear family as the basis for an idealised model of sexual relations, and with little or no mention of pleasure. Indeed, for a long period during the twentieth century, the clitoris was not identified in sexual education, its absence being emblematic of the systematic disregard for pleasure in much of what has counted for sex education. This chapter examines the following: • the emergence of sex education as a social problem • historical shifts and patterns in discourses of sex education • current debates involving sex education • contemporary research findings relating to sex education • the socio-cultural effects of sex(uality) education.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Perspectives in Human Sexuality, p. 168-186
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Place of Publication: Melbourne, Australia
ISBN: 0195517016
Field of Research (FOR): 160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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