Researching young people's sexuality and learning about sex: Experience, need, and sex relationship education

  • Hirst J
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Abstract

This paper describes findings from an in-depth case study of young people’s sexuality and learning about sex. Focus groups and unstructured interviews were conducted with young women and young men aged 15–16 years in a school in the north of England. Analysis focused on disjunctions between reported sexual behaviour in a park and in a bedsitting room, and the content of school sex and relationship education. Tensions between the accounts are considered for their impact on learning about sex, sexual negotiation, subjectivity and inter-generational understanding. Despite some negative experiences in sex education, the young people interviewed desired the affirmation and support of adults, and recommend sex and relationship education as the most appropriate vehicle for providing this. The value added outcomes of participation in the study, including consciousness and awareness raising, and the opportunity for reflection and debate and selves as ‘experts’, enhanced young people’s view that non-judgemental and meaningful advice and guidance are possible in formal learning contexts. Implications for future forms of sex and relationship education are discussed.

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Authors

  • Julia Hirst

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