Teenagers' web questions compared with a sexuality curriculum: an exploration
Background: Teenagers need information about their changing bodies. Many young people do not receive adequate or accurate puberty/sexuality education from their parents or school, so many teenagers are going online to have their sexuality questions answered. Purpose: This research examines teenagers' web questions on sexuality, and an example of the puberty and sexuality education content that some may learn in school. It looks for evidence of heteronormative conceptualisations of gender and sexuality, using a theoretical framework based on the Four Discourses of Sexuality Education. Sample: This includes the web questions (n 젲00) of an evenly gendered sample of 13-15-year-old students (n 젱80) from four English-speaking nations, namely UK, USA, Canada and Australia, selected from a reputable puberty/ sexuality education site, and, for comparison, an example of an age-representative public school Health and Physical Education (HPE) puberty/sexuality education curriculum. Method: A gendered and narrative-thematic Content Analysis was undertaken, using the Four Discourses theoretical framework, on the students' sexuality web questions, and also on the school HPE curriculum. Results: The discourse of Victimisation was evident in nearly half of all students' web questions, and over a third of the HPE curriculum. The discourse of Individual Morality was present in a quarter of both students' questions and the curriculum, while the discourse of Desire was evidenced in a fifth of students' questions and almost a third of curriculum content. Somewhat surprisingly, the discourse of Violence was present in 9% of exclusively female students' web questions, and in 12% of the curriculum. Conclusion: It is recommended that the sampled HPE curriculum, and similar curricula in these sampled students' countries, need explicitly to address gender differences in students' metacognition and conceptualisations of puberty and sexuality. This may enable students to embrace their entitlement to sexual subjectivity, in education and across the lifespan, thus helping to ensure students' healthy, positive and purposeful life outcomes.
Curriculum and Pedagogy Theory and Development