Accessibility statement

Discursive silences: exploring the continued absence of pleasure in sex and relationships education in England.

Wednesday 25 May 2016, 1.00PM to 2.00pm

Speaker(s): Vanita Sundaram, Centre for Research on Education in Social Justice and Helen Sauntson, Associate Prof, University of York St John, Department of Language and Linguistics.

In this seminar we present an analysis of ‘pleasure’ in sex and relationships education (SRE) in England. Drawing together two distinct sources of data and analytical frameworks, we argue that pleasure is largely absent within SRE and that this discursive silence serves to produce highly gendered and heteronormative understandings of sexual agency, autonomy and empowerment. Our critical linguistic analysis of the current Department for Education (DfE) Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) guidance for England and Wales reveals that sex is positioned as a ‘risky’ and dangerous activity which is clearly linked to child protection; sex is not discussed as pleasurable. Focus group discussions conducted with young women in the North East of England highlight the ways in which gendered discourses about pleasure construct expectations for ‘appropriate’ sexual identities and behaviours. These may be linked to negative experiences such as sexual harassment and bullying and compromised sexual subjectivity. We suggest that the existing DfE SRE guidance should be re-examined with particular reference to addressing gender equality, including in relation to access to a discourse of sexual pleasure and rights. 

Location: A/D017, Alcuin D Block, University of York