Learning sex and doing gender : cultures of heterosexuality in the secondary school
The thesis uses an inter-disciplinary, feminist and cultural studies approach to sexuality and schooling. The study documents the ways in which issues of sexuality feature in the school context and the implications of this for sexual learning and the production of sexual identities. The study examines the ways in which pupil cultures negotiate issues of sexuality. Pupil cultures can be understood as constitutive of informal groups of school students who actively ascribe meanings to events within specific social contexts. This approach points to the ways in which such encounters produce individual and collective identities which carry both social and psychic investments. The study focuses upon two key areas in the field of sexuality and schooling; the shaping of pupil cultures and the production of sexual identities; and secondly, the role of the school in relation to issues of sexuality. The thesis develops an analysis of pedagogic approaches to Personal and Social Education (PSE) and the ways in which the meanings and messages of the curriculum are mediated by pupil cultures. The emphasis on pupil cultures can be seen as a way of giving epistemological status to school students who receive the curriculum but play no part in the structuring of the school organisation or the plannýng of lessons. However, this approach can have the effect of seeing teachers as an oppressive, monolithic force, defined in opposition to pupils. As a corrective to this the experiences of individual teachers and their personal accounts of teaching and learning in the field of sex education are drawn upon. Teachers' perspectives can be seen as an important element in developing an understanding of current practice, in an area where both teachers and pupils may have investments in the construction and maintenance of symbolic boundaries. The study aims to contribute to academic debate and practitioner knowledge in the field of sexuality education. it is anticipated that this study will facilitate an analysis of sexuality and contemporary schooling in ways that develop our understanding of heterosexuality as a dominant category, and have implications for policy and practice in this field. The main findings of the thesis point to the significance of peer group interactions to the collective enactment of masculinities, femininities and their relationship to the sexual. The key argument of the thesis concerns the activity and agency of pupil cultures in the regulation and performance of gendered heterosexualities; through exchanges in friendship groups in school, young men and young women learn about sex and do gender. The project highlights the ways in which the acquisition of sexual knowledge and the enactment of gender is in dialogue with popular cultural forms such as teenage magazines, television programmes and pornographic representations. Moreover, the analysis of pupil peer groups stress the interrelationship of psychic and social processes to collectively generated versions of sexgender.