Personal sexual story : a radical vehicle for transformative learning in adult education
This thesis identifies personal sexuality as a significant and crucial site for transformative adult learning. Personal sexuality is shown to be an important adult problematic vital for individual and social transformation. Adult education of the radical/transformative tradition professes to respond to adult learning needs through a process of liberative critical reflection. However, the thesis shows that personal sexuality is an adult learning domain which, in fact, is largely overlooked both in theory and in practice by adult education. The study is cross-disciplinary. Its theoretical framework is drawn from theories of transformative learning in adult education together with psychological, sociological and feminist theories of personal development and social relations. Based on original, qualitative case study fieldwork, the findings from the personal and stories of seventy six participants reveal a hitherto secret and complex swathe of interconnecting learning strands. These strands are shown to operate throughout different life transitions and extend to encompass the next generation and the wider community. The issue of communicative competence in relation to personal sexuality emerges as central to participants’ relational concerns, learning, agendas, intergenerational educational roles, work roles and to their capacities for transformative action. Major themes in childhood and adolescent learning reveal patterns of sexual repression and oppression as de facto key constituents in the psycho-cultural construction of personal sexual identity. These themes show that the culture of sexual silence, initiated in childhood learning, is maintained in adult relationships of intimacy and contributes to further embedding oppressive gender relations in the socio-cultural fabric to the detriment of both sexes and of society. Major themes of adult sexual experience are identified as relating to a) self-image and sexual self-esteem; b) the challenges of intimate partnerships and changes in relationships; c) parenting and the inter-generational tendency to reproduce personal sexual learning.