Accepted Paper:

(Mis)matches between sex education and needs of youth  


Marijke Naezer (Radboud University)
Els Rommes (Institute for gender studies - Radboud University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper we interrogate the political practice of online and offline sex education in the Netherlands. Our question is: to which extent do politics in sex education match young people’s needs for information about sexuality?

Paper long abstract:

Discourses about sex education indicate a notion of sexuality which fits into the 'sex as natural' tradition as described by Seidman (2006a, b). This discourse implies a hierarchical relation in which the adult is regarded as the 'expert' who 'transfers' seemingly 'factual', 'rational' information to the 'unknowing' youngster; a practice not dissimilar to the presentation of medical information to 'lay people'.

In line with the aims of T100, our goal is to interrogate this highly political practice of teaching about sexuality, by highlighting the perspectives and needs of the 'receiving party': young people. Our question is: to which extent do politics in sex education match young people's needs for information about sexuality?

The paper is based on a survey among 679 youngsters, five focus group meetings and about fifty in-depth interviews with young people, and 1,5 year of online and offline participant observation.

We will argue that online and offline educational programs about sexuality do not always match the needs of youth. For example, whereas sex education programs present sexuality as a highly individual practice, young people experience sexuality as a deeply social project, in which peers play a central role.

We will theorize on the extent to which the concept of 'warm expert' (Bakardjieva 2005, Wyatt et al. 2005) fits young people's information needs, analyze the power differences that are implied by the scripts (Akrich 1992, Oudshoorn 1996) of sex education and point out the options that seemingly powerless youth do have, e.g. at the consumption junction (Cowan 1987).

Panel T059
Making Worlds: Feminist STS and everyday technoscience