This chapter aims to provide an overview of key debates and issues in the field of sexuality, gender and schooling. As such the chapter brings together different bodies of literature relating to sexuality, gender and society. Firstly, the impact of social constructionism and secondly, socio-historical approaches to sexuality are considered, particularly in relation to the work of Jeffrey Weeks and Michel Foucault. Thirdly, psychoanalytic approaches to sexuality are drawn upon and discussed, particularly Freudian and Lacanian theories. These different bodies of literature are cited and utilised, respectively, to provide a specific context for the empirical work and as a way of exploring issues of subjectivity and psychic processes. Finally, the chapter considers literature on sexuality and gender in the educational sphere. Researchers working more directly in the field of sexuality and schooling are discussed here and throughout the book. This study is in dialogue with the literature concerned with sexuality and relations of schooling (see for example: Epstein and Johnson 1994, 1998; Holland et al. 1998; Mac an Ghaill 1994; Redman 1994; Sears 1992; Thorogood 2000; Trudell 1993). An aim of the study is to develop an analysis of sexuality and contemporary schooling in ways that aid our understanding of heterosexuality as a dominant category. Such an analysis inevitably has implications for policy and practice in the area of sexuality education. While policy perspectives are not the main focus of this study, some of the practical implications for teaching and learning are discussed in subsequent chapters.
Contemporary perspectives on gender and sexuality often point to a dichotomy between essentialist and social constructionist ways