Shaping sexual knowledge: a cultural history of sex education in twentieth century Europe

Tiffany Jones

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    Abstract

    One could be forgiven, when investigating sex education, for thinking there are only twokey discourses at work: comprehensive sex education and the conservative movementaiming to repress it. Much of what is published in books, journals, newspaper articles,radio discussions and (here I roll my eyes) televised news reports about what goes on inWestern schools reflects this assumption. Often such texts explicitly promote thisdichotomy. This is particularly true with texts privileging US cultural histories orperspectives. These texts vary in their selection of the focal point of their debate ' it mayrelate to teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, sexually transmissible infections, safety,representations of the family, policy and so forth. But it is the depiction of the debate itself,the story of a struggle between power-holders and the sexually repressed, which isconsistent. Extreme and polarised ideologies concerning 'what our kids should be taughtabout sex' are depicted as pitched in a valorised battlefield wherein one or the other sidemust clearly be championed, wherein one or the other side clearly has the children's bestinterests at heart, whilst one or the other will lead them not only to personal ruin, but alsoto a damaging of society at large and a failing of its key institutions. Despite all Foucault'sinsights, the plethora of sexuality discourses, and the complexities of their interrelationsbeyond a simplistic notion of repressive power, is frequently obscured in contemporarymedia. The value of Shaping sexual knowledge is threefold in combating this pervasiveillusion
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)129-131
    Number of pages3
    JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
    Volume12
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009

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