Critical Pedagogy, Sexuality Education and Young People

Issues about Democracy and Active Citizenry

by Fida Sanjakdar (Volume editor) Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip (Volume editor)
©2018 Edited Collection X, 224 Pages


Critical Pedagogy, Sexuality Education and Young People presents cutting-edge empirical and theoretical research on the role of critical pedagogy in transforming sexuality education. Featuring the work of scholars from around the globe, including the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Finland, this unique collection of work expands the meaning of pedagogy in the field of sexuality education by augmenting young people’s voices and agency, and by emphasizing a democratic and civic focus. This volume identifies and interrogates theoretical frameworks based on critical theory and critical pedagogical discourses, cross-cultural studies and critical literacy to offer new ways to conceptualize critical pedagogy in sexuality education. Many of the practical classroom applications presented will engage educators and classroom teachers in the areas of curriculum design, classroom pedagogies and institutional reform. They can also be applied to the formulation and implementation of more effective policies for sexuality education involving schools, community groups and students. The chapters in this volume interrogate texts, institutions, social relations and ideologies impacting contemporary sexuality education policies and pedagogical practices, prompting a consideration of alternative models of sexuality education for today’s globalized age.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Critical Pedagogy and the Re-imaginings of Sexuality Education: An Introduction (Fida Sanjakdar / Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip)
  • Sexuality Education, Ideologies and Socio-cultural Politics
  • Sexuality Education and Institutional Settings
  • Sexuality Education, Identities and Practice
  • In Closing
  • Note
  • References
  • Part 1: Sexuality Education, Ideologies and Socio-cultural Politics
  • 1. Religion, Secularism and Sexuality Education: LGBTQI Identities in Education and the Politics of Ideology in Canada (Heather Shipley)
  • Introduction
  • Sex Education Curriculum in Ontario: Revisions, Debates and Implementation
  • Sex Education Curricula on a National Level
  • ‘Safe Spaces’: Religious and Secular Spheres
  • Politics of Ideology: The (Properly) Educated Citizen
  • Concluding Thoughts
  • Notes
  • References
  • 2. Sex Education in Argentina: Ideological Tensions and Critical Challenges (Eduardo Mattio / Juan Marco Vaggione)
  • Sex Education as a Right
  • Sex Education in Argentina: Advances and Tensions
  • The Need for a Critical Pedagogy
  • Closing Remarks
  • Acknowledgements
  • Notes
  • References
  • 3. Educating for Consent: Beyond the Binary (Elsie Whittington / Rachel Thomson)
  • Introduction
  • Situating Consent
  • A Genealogy of Consent
  • Producing Consent
  • Equality of Consent
  • Criminalising Non-consent
  • Educating for Consent
  • Challenging the Binary, Changing Terminologies
  • A Continuum of Sexual Agency
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • 4. Reconceptualising Sexuality Education in the Wake of the HIV, Ebola and Zika Epidemics (Ekua Yankah / Peter Aggleton)
  • Introduction
  • The Impact of the HIV Epidemic on the Discourse of Sexuality Education
  • The Impact of Ebola on Discourses of Sexuality Education
  • The Impact of Zika on the Discourse of Sexuality Education
  • Reconceptualising Sexuality Education in Today’s Globalised World
  • Notes
  • References
  • Part 2: Sexuality Education and Institutional Settings
  • 5. Sites of Good Practice: How Do Education, Health and Youth Work Spaces Shape Sex Education? (Pam Alldred)
  • Introduction
  • The Studies
  • Teachers and the Educational Approach
  • School Nurses and the Health Approach
  • Youth Workers and the Youth Work Approach
  • Discussion: Professional Practice and Youth Agency
  • Concluding Remarks
  • References
  • 6. Sexuality Education in Action: The Pedagogical Possibilities at a Youth Camp (Lisa W. Loutzenheiser / LJ Slovin)
  • Introduction: Agency, Education and Youth
  • Who Are Youth?
  • Doubting Methodologists
  • Let’s Talk About Sex
  • Visualising Camp
  • Sexual Health and Sexual Q and A Workshops
  • Moving Forward
  • Notes
  • References
  • 7. (Re)presenting Religion in Sexuality Education for a Democratic Society: An Interdisciplinary and Critical Discussion (Fida Sanjakdar / Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip)
  • Introduction
  • Religion, Critical Theory and Sexuality Education
  • Democratic Education: Educating for Democracy
  • Religion, Sexuality Education and Democracy: A Critical Discussion
  • Closing Thoughts
  • Note
  • References
  • 8. Nudity, Sexting and Consent: Finding Opportunities for Critical Pedagogy in Tagged and Caitlin Stasey (Kyra Clarke)
  • Introduction
  • Public Pedagogy as Critical Pedagogy
  • Tagged, Classroom Activities and Instruction: Missed Opportunities for Critical Pedagogy
  • Stasey, Nudity, and Consent: Possible Critical Conversations
  • Reframing Nudity: Reputation and Shame
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Part 3: Sexuality Education, Identities and Practice
  • 9. Informal Sex Education: Forces That Shape Youth Identities and Practices (Pamela Dickey Young)
  • Introduction
  • Where Do Youth Learn About Sex?
  • What Do They Learn?
  • What Do They Want to Know?
  • The Role of Religion/Spirituality
  • Sex Outside Marriage
  • LGBTQI Sexuality and Religion
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Notes
  • References
  • 10. It’s a Family Affair—Queering Relations: Closets, Communities and ‘I’ (Mark Vicars)
  • Introduction: Coming Out of the Straight and Narrow
  • It’s a Family Affair: A Thrice Told Story …
  • Queering Relations: Breaking the Silence(s)
  • Concluding Remarks
  • References
  • 11. ‘Boys Think It’s Just a Hairless Hole’: Young People’s Reflections on Binary and Heteronormative Pedagogies in School Based Sexualities Education (Julia Hirst / Rachel Wood / Daisy Marshall)
  • Introduction
  • Sources of Data
  • Findings
  • Periods, Pregnancy and Hairless Holes: Gendered and Heterosexist Pedagogies
  • Heteronormalising Schooling
  • LGBTQ+ Young People’s Critical Capacities
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Notes
  • References
  • 12. ‘Waiting for the Big Talk’: The Role of Sexuality Education from the View of Parents Living in Multicultural Surroundings (Veronika Honkasalo)
  • Introduction
  • Finnish Sexuality Education and Critical Pedagogy
  • Data and Methods
  • Constructing the Dialogue About Sexuality Between Parents and Children
  • Conflicting and Gendered Understandings of the Role of Sexuality Education
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

| vii →


Figure 3.1. Continuum of sexual agencies.

Figure 3.2. A continuum of consent as mapped out by young people in educational session.

Figure 4.1. The cycle of infection and re-infection in the South African HIV epidemic (adapted from de Oliveira & Khanyile, 2016).

| ix →


We would like to thank all those colleagues and friends who contributed in one way or another to the success of this collection. We would also like to thank our respective departments for giving us the time and space to pursue this project.

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Critical Pedagogy and the Re-imaginings of Sexuality Education: An Introduction


The landscape of contemporary sexuality education1 theory and practice is marked by a predominance of facts primarily focused on biomedical, mechanical and hygienic aspects of human sexuality and conservative, teacher/adult-led pedagogies which do little to challenge student learning (Bruess & Greenberg, 2013; Fine & McClelland, 2006; Magoon, 2010). This narrow and reductionist view of sexuality has led to the production of educational standards in sexuality education which are strictly associated with risk knowledge, reproduction and the avoidance of disease and has resulted in many students viewing sexuality education as irrelevant and meaningless in their lives (Allen, 2011; Reiss, 2003; Sanjakdar, 2011). To improve contemporary school based sexuality education for young people, requires an approach that addresses the realities and tensions arising between the individual and their socio-cultural contexts. There is no shortage of literature which suggests that a sexuality education that focuses on individual beliefs, better reflects young people’s cultural and religious diversity, accounts for (and respond to) broader influences shaping their sexual decision-making, helps to construct the context within which young people enact their decisions about their sexuality and sexual health (Aggleton & Campbell, 2000; Bay-Cheng, 2003; Hirst, 2013; Irvine, 1995). However, critical explorations of theoretical and pedagogical perspectives on sexuality to produce citizens with more critical thinking skills and multiple understandings about sex and sexuality, is acutely lacking in sexuality education discourse. Theoretical and pedagogical models of critical, democratic sexuality education, as both a mode of inquiry and pedagogy, are under developed and warrant further attention. ← 1 | 2 →

Throughout history, sexuality education has been a subject area that heralds a liberatory focus, empowering students and teachers to foster curiosity and critical thinking. Attention to processes of acquiring information and of forming attitudes, beliefs and values about relationships, intimacy and identity, frequently feature in definitions of sexuality education (see European Expert Group on Sexuality Education, 2016, p. 427). Discourses reshaping sexuality education such as LGBTQI liberation (Jones, 2013, 2016), pleasure and desire (Hirst, 2013) and gender education (Pendleton Jiménez, 2016), have not only expanded understandings of sexuality education, but have, to some degree, encouraged a move from enforcing conformity to dominant hegemonic values and subsequent submission and acceptance of oppressive and subordinate positions (Giroux, 1983; McLaren, 1989). However, more concerted effort to re-envision sexuality education pedagogy which develops more critical and emancipatory outcomes in student learning with the aim to participate in radical social transformation, is now needed. Sexuality education today is in need of reform. This volume is a response to calls in the sexuality education literature for a more critical and democratic reconstructing of sexuality education, one that draws on Freirean critical pedagogy, Deweyean radical pragmatism for democratic education and various critical theories of gender, race, class and society.

Critical pedagogy is understood (and misunderstood) in myriad ways. It is most often associated with the Brazilian educator and activist Paulo Freire using the principles of Critical Theory of the Frankfurt school as its main source (Darder, Baltodano, & Torres, 2009; Freire, 1970). Undoubtedly the key figure in the development of critical pedagogy, Paulo Freire’s problem-posing approach to education is in opposition to the traditional ‘banking method’ of education, and is also closely connected with neo-Marxist analyses of education, schooling and society. One of the fundamental tenets of critical pedagogy is developing the skills to critique, cultivate critical consciousness and increase human knowledge necessary for the imagining of a better future. Ira Shor (1992) offers the most straightforward description of critical pedagogy:

With its implicit goal of advancing the emancipatory function of knowledge and strong agenda for social change, critical pedagogy has been interpreted and developed in different ways by drawing upon the divergent views of ← 2 | 3 → critical theorists and radical educators including: ‘border pedagogy’ (Giroux, 1983, 1981, ‘liberatory teaching’ (Shor, 1987), ‘pedagogy of possibility’ (Simon, 1987, 1992), ‘postmodern pedagogy’ (Kellner, 1988; Kilgore, 2004), ‘empowering education’ (Shor, 1992), ‘pedagogy of resistance’ (Giroux, 1983; McLaren & Leonard, 1993) and ‘emancipatory pedagogy’ (Gordon, 1985; Swartz, 1996). When underpinned by critical pedagogy, education becomes the improvement of social justice through the development of active and engaged citizens (Crookes, 2013; Darder et al., 2009; Darder, Mayo, & Parask, 2016; Freire, 1985; McArthur, 2010).

The pragmatist component of critical pedagogy offers a method of inquiry that fits closely with the commitments of a democratic society. In some circles, critical pedagogy is considered an advanced Deweyean method (Freire, 1985; Giroux, 1981). The desire to provoke students to go beyond the world they know and feel comfortable in, to expand their understanding of a range of social possibilities in education and achieve a more equal and just future has also been the driving force for John Dewey in his work on democracy education. While Dewey did not use the term hegemony, he recognized the problem and constructed his conception of education in response to it. In Democracy and Education Dewey (1916) wrote:

Developing the most sustained reflections on progressive education by linking education and democracy, Dewey insisted that one could not have a democratic society without education, that everyone should have access to education for democracy to work and that education is the key to democracy and thus to the good life and good society. Dewey was a proponent of strong democracy, of an egalitarian and participatory democracy, where everyone takes part in social and political life. From a Deweyan perspective, democracy is not merely a form of government, it is the means by which people discover, extend and manifest human nature and human rights. The aim of democratic education and thus a democratic society is the production of free human beings associated with one another on terms of equality. ← 3 | 4 →

How we educate youth for the future will determine the meaning, substance and practice of democracy itself. How we educate youth about sex, their sexuality and those of others, to meet the challenges of a global society demands a more critical approach, which involves addressing and where possible, disrupting the historical genealogy shaping this curriculum area, articulating a metatheory for the philosophy of sexuality education grounded in key themes of critique and democratic education. Critical pedagogies strive for democratic participation and when used in sexuality education classrooms, can produce critical public spaces that promote critical thought of both subjects and the wider social system of which they are a part of. As both a field of study and a set of practices aimed to transform education and pedagogy as part of the project of radical democracy, the work of both Freire and Dewey seem a perfect fit to explore the possibilities of re-imagining sexuality education to produce a much needed new synthesis for a more humanist and libertarian pedagogy in the field. Freire’s critical pedagogy for social justice and Dewey’s radical pragmatism for reconstructing and democratizing education invite an innovative approach to sexuality education for the contemporary era.

This volume positions critical pedagogy and radical democratization to meet the challenges of globalization and multiculturalism and to counter the trend toward the imposition of a neo-liberal model on sexuality education to our youth today. With contributions from an international team of scholars in sexuality education scholarship today, this volume presents unique and cutting-edge research of both an empirical and theoretical nature, on the role of critical pedagogy in transforming sexuality education in countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, Argentina, Finland, and USA. The diverse scholarship in this collection offer new and fresh alternatives to educational policies and pedagogical practices in sexuality education which allow young people to examine alternative models of sexuality and deliberate critically between divergent perspectives to become democratic citizens. The discussions offered in this volume are timely. Every chapter delves into a diverse range of both theoretical and practical applications of critical pedagogy in sexuality education offering readers a stimulating combination of theoretical conceptualizations of critical pedagogy’s role in sexuality education and creative pedagogical applications that inspire student learning.

Because critical pedagogy is grounded in critique as a mode of analyses that interrogates texts, institutions, social relations and ideologies, these inform the broad themes of the book: 1) Sexuality education, ideologies and socio-cultural politics, 2) Sexuality education and institutional settings and 3) Sexuality education, identities and practice. These thematic units conceptualize the philosophical, theoretical, methodological and practical aims of critical ← 4 | 5 → pedagogy and are manifested in subthemes such as the complexity of sexual identity negotiation, the diversity of living sexuality, the efficacy of current sexuality education in school contexts, the limits and possibilities of diversity of knowledge and of different settings and places of learning in these settings. The chapters work together to create a picture of where some of the challenges are being faced in the intersection of sexuality and school pedagogies, to challenge commonly held assumptions about the relationships between these two categories of analysis, and to explore lived sexual experiences through understandings of the role of agency. The inter/multidisciplinary treatment of the topics within each section is now explored further.

Sexuality Education, Ideologies and Socio-cultural Politics

Discourses and decisions about sexuality education, and the meanings built into a school based sexuality education curriculum are constructed by tradition, by unquestioned values and by implicit assumptions about sexuality. Ongoing debates about what should constitute a comprehensive and inclusive sexuality education curriculum are essentially ideological conflicts. The notion of ideology as a powerful force manifesting in belief systems and structures is referred to as hegemony. Peter McLaren (1986) describes hegemony as “cultural encasement of meaning, a prison house of language and ideas, … [where] … the dominant culture is able to manufacture the dreams and desires for both dominant and subordinate groups” (p. 174). Similarly, Henry Giroux (1981) associates hegemony as a

A hegemonic, assimilationist culture shaping sexuality education today has found its way in the classroom, setting the agenda with respect to what is deemed culturally reasonable, realistic or normal, reaching so deeply into unconscious levels of thought as powerful methods of legitimacy, conformity and social control.

In this first section of this volume, chapters focus largely on how hegemonic domination manifests as both a symbolic and an institutional force on current sexuality education agendas in Canada, Argentina, the UK and Australia, thus identifying the conditions that permit the perpetuation of undemocratic sexuality education. The chapters in this section contribute to both theoretical conceptualizations and practical applications on how to work ← 5 | 6 → against these various forces of domination interrupting, and where possible, reforming various patriarchies, politics and resistances in sexuality education. A critical theory of education must be radically historicist, attempting to reconstruct education as social conditions evolve and to create pedagogical alternatives in terms of the needs, problems, and possibilities of specific groups of people in different situations (Kincheloe, 2008). Chapters in this section critique the specific limitations of sexuality education in some societies and offer visions of what sexuality education could be like.

In Chapter 1, Heather Shipley challenges readers by subjecting to scrutiny the dominant secular underpinning of sexuality education in Canada as no less of an ideological imposition on sexuality education than religion. Drawing on recent debates in Ontario, Canada, in response to the new sexuality education curricula, as well as data from projects involving both religious and non-religious young people, Heather considers the implicit ideologies of secularism and the ways the LGBTQI youth continue to experience challenges, even in ‘liberal/secular’ spaces. Following a careful critique of how sexuality education curriculum, policy and practice across Canadian schools reproduces the existing social order with its focus on secularism, Heather engages in debate on how a critical theory of education must be rooted in a critical theory of society and can offer openings for progressive social change, and transformative practices that can create a better life and society for the LGBTQI community and broader diverse groups.

In Chapter 2, Eduardo Mattio and Juan Marco Vaggione analyze the sanctioning of a national law passed in Argentina in 2006 recognizing sex education as a ‘right’ and ‘obligatory learning’ in all schools. Created out of religious tensions and challenges characterizing contemporary sexual politics in Argentina, the authors demonstrate how legal recognition and the public policies work together to guarantee sex education as a ‘right’, engaging readers in the complex connections between the religious and the political influences on sexuality education in Argentina. Using the lens of critical pedagogy, the authors question the dominant patriarchal and heteronormative contract and propose the need for an appropriation of the law outside the ideological tensions that arose with regard to the implementation of sex education in school contexts. In doing so, the authors demonstrate how one of the challenges for democratically reconstructing sexuality education today is strengthened by reflecting on changing life conditions, experiences, and subjectivities in the context of globalization. In this case, reconstructing education to promote learning about sexuality became a bigger exercise in promoting social and political change and disrupting existing capitalist agendas.


X, 224
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (February)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Vienna, Oxford, Wien, 2018. X, 234 pp., 3 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Fida Sanjakdar (Volume editor) Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip (Volume editor)

Fida Sanjakdar (Ph.D., University of Melbourne, Australia) is Senior Lecturer of Curriculum and Pedagogy in the Faculty of Education at Monash University, Australia. She is the author of Living West, Facing East: The (De)construction of Muslim Youth Sexual Identities (Peter Lang, 2011). Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip (Ph.D., University of Surrey, UK) is Professor of Sociology in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Nottingham, UK. His latest publication is Understanding Young Buddhists: Living Out Ethical Journeys (2017).


Title: Critical Pedagogy, Sexuality Education and Young People
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236 pages