Sexuality, Gender and Schooling: Shifting Agendas in Social Learning

By Mary Jane Kehily | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Agony aunts and absences: an analysis of a sex education class1

Gender is the repeated stylisation of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being. A political genealogy of gender ontologies, if it is successful will deconstruct the substantive appearance of gender into its constitutive acts and locate and account for those acts within the compulsory frames set by the various forces that police the social appearance of gender.

(Butler 1990:33)

This chapter develops themes and issues introduced in Chapter 3 through a discussion of student cultures and the teaching strategies employed by Mrs Evans. The focus for this chapter is upon the proceedings of one sex education lesson for Year 10 pupils (age 14-15) at Clarke School. The lesson, in which pupils were asked to write and discuss fictional problems, formed part of a ten-week course on sex education. This lesson constitutes session eight of the course. The course is taught to all Year 10 pupils in the school and forms part of a broader PSE programme that is planned and taught over four years. By developing an analysis of one lesson I aim to illustrate some of the complexities involved in the teaching and learning of sex education. The analysis indicates that sex education offers a space where competing discourses meet and are played out within the classroom arena. The chapter suggests that young women, in particular, draw upon popular culture as a resource to articulate aspects of sexuality while young men feel less comfortable with such discussions. Finally, the chapter indicates that the use of popular cultural forms such as agony aunts provide students with the opportunity to discuss several themes

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