Research Overview

This project is concerned with giving young people a say about what they learn in school-based sexuality education. It builds on earlier research commissioned by SHine SA, the peak sexual health agency in South Australia and developer of the South Australian Relationships and Sexual Health Curriculum (Johnson, 2012). The research found that there is ‘a fascinating mismatch between what [teachers]…liked to teach and what they thought their students preferred to learn’ in comprehensive school-based sexuality education (Johnson, 2012, p. 45). The study concluded that,

This was one of several suspected points of departure between teachers’ and students’ views that suggest the need for further investigations of student perspectives on what to prioritise and emphasise in the sexual health curriculum. They also helped to identify ‘silences’ in the data where only a few teachers were prepared to point out ‘the elephant in the room’ – issues and topics like sexual desire, eroticism, sexual pleasure, masturbation, and the impact of pornography that were less often talked about than the more physiological and relationships aspects of human sexuality. That teachers knew that their students wanted to address these issues but tended to avoid them, suggests the need for more explicit, perhaps cross-disciplinary, support to tackle the ‘mysteries’ of human sexual desire and attraction. (Johnson, 2012, pp. 45-46)

The study builds on the work of Thorogood (2000), Ingham (2005), Allen (2005), Hirst (2008), Ollis, Harrison and Richardson (2012) and McLaughlin, et al. (2012) who sought the views of students about their sexuality education needs and promoted their ‘voice’ (Fielding, 2001) in this contested area of the school curriculum.

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