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Discursive silences: Bringing together critical linguistic and qualitative analysis to explore the continued absence of pleasure in Sex and Relationships Education in England.

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Publication details

JournalSex Education
DateAccepted/In press - 2 Jun 2015
DateE-pub ahead of print - 4 Sep 2015
DatePublished (current) - 2016
Issue number3
Volume16
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)240-254
Early online date4/09/15
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

In this paper, we present an analysis of ‘pleasure’ in sex and
relationships education (SRE) in England. Drawing together two
distinct sources of data and different but complementary analytical
frameworks, we argue that pleasure is largely absent within SRE
and that this discursive silence serves to produce highly gendered and
heteronormative understandings of sexual agency, autonomy
and empowerment. A critical linguistic analysis of current Department
for Education (DfE) SRE guidance for England reveals that sex is
positioned as a ‘risky’ and dangerous activity, which is clearly linked
to child protection; sex is not discussed as pleasurable. Focus group
discussions conducted with young women in the North East of
England highlight the ways in which gendered discourses about
pleasure construct expectations for ‘appropriate’ sexual identities
and behaviours. These may be linked to negative experiences such as
sexual harassment and bullying and compromised sexual subjectivity.
We suggest that existing DfE SRE guidance in England be re-examined
with particular reference to addressing gender equality, including in
relation to access to a discourse of sexual pleasure and rights.

    Research areas

  • critical discourse analysis, sex and relationships education, pleasure, young people

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