Reflections on “The Trouble of Teen Sex: The construction of adolescent sexuality through school-based sexuality education.”

The following reflection is based on my reading of “The Trouble of Teen Sex: The construction of adolescent sexuality through school-based sexuality education.” I found this article very interesting, as I had never previously considered how sex education could reinforce socially constructed norms of sexuality and gender. I find the idea that sexual education does more than passively inform teens about sex and sexuality and instead actively reinforces and constructs adolescent sexuality fascinating and alarming.

I think this reading in particular stands as a great example of some of the more complex notions we are exploring in this course, especially those around stereotypes of youths and the invention of adolescence. I found this article to be very informative especially in its examination of how one of the underpinnings of this conception of youth and invention of adolescence revolves around the theme of control. As is stated in the article:

The infusion of a biologically determined hypersexuality into the identity of the adolescent succeeds in giving inevitable and natural cause for adult intervention and surveillance. It is not predicated on what behaviors teens actually engage in, but rather on the constructed identity of ‘teen.’ In this way, our construction of adolescent sexuality justifies our efforts to control it (Lesko, 1996). Subscription to a drive reduction theory of adolescent sexuality provides the rationale for a fear-based, crisis intervention approach to SBSE—drastic, absolutist measures are necessary to reduce and subdue the hypersexuality of teens (Gagnon & Simon, 1973).

I agree with this article that we need to start rethinking our sexual education programs to be more inclusive to those who do not ‘fit’ within our socially constructed ideas of the ‘norm’ and advocate for a positive healthy view of sexuality. Regardless of whether or not we approve of it, sexuality and sexual discovery are important (but not exclusive) aspects of adolescence and this discovery is significant as a healthy balanced lifestyle must include a positive view of ones own sex and sexuality.

I like the idea that we need to be informing teens “Not only when to say ‘no,’ but when to say ‘yes,’ as well (Morris, 1994)” because engaging in sexual activity is natural and is something that the large majority of us desire. To teach teens to “just say no” ignores one important reality of what it is to be human and can only create negative feelings around an issue that they should feel confident and positive about.

What I found most interesting was the discussion around the conflict of interest perpetuated by our society in regards to feminine sexuality and sexual education (in what one desires and what one is told to embody) because I think that it stands as an example of some of the stresses young woman face which can lead to their higher risk of exhibiting mental health problems (as was discussed in class last week). The authors of this article say it best:

Adolescent women are in the precarious position of needing to present themselves as desirable to men, though not desiring (which can be interpreted as aggressive and morally loose); sexually responsive to male desire (thus proving that they are ‘normal,’ neither homosexual nor prudish) as well as sexually responsible (Holland et al., 1999).

In other words, what I am trying to say is that this precarious position may account for some of the stress felt by young women as they navigate what they are feeling and how they are expected to behave.

I believe I have taken a lot from my reading of this article as it has informed me about an issue I had never previously considered but now think to be of great importance. I think it stands to all of us as educators to examine the kinds of assumptions we are making about teens in our teaching methods and reevaluate how we approach controversial issues in our own classrooms.

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