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LINGUIST List 22.3070

Mon Aug 01 2011

Diss: Socioling: King: 'Linguistic Negotiations of Sexual Agency in...'

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        1.     Brian King , Linguistic Negotiations of Sexual Agency in Sexuality Education

Message 1: Linguistic Negotiations of Sexual Agency in Sexuality Education
Date: 30-Jul-2011
From: Brian King <brian.w.kingvuw.ac.nz>
Subject: Linguistic Negotiations of Sexual Agency in Sexuality Education
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Institution: Victoria University of Wellington
Program: School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Brian W. King

Dissertation Title: Linguistic Negotiations of Sexual Agency in Sexuality Education

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Dissertation Director:
Janet Holmes

Dissertation Abstract:

The investigative aim of this thesis is to explore the role of language in
the construction of sexuality agency during a classroom-based sexuality
education programme for adolescents. The thesis begins with an examination
of the motivations behind the study of agency in relation to sexuality.
Overlapping research gaps in the fields of language and gender/sexuality
and sexuality education are identified. Scholars from both fields have
pinpointed difficulties with the accessing of agentive sexual subject
positions by young people (particularly young women) during conversation.

Investigations into sexuality education in New Zealand have suggested that
'Discourses' of sexuality in classrooms and broader school communities
position students as 'sexual' while simultaneously constructing them as
innocent and childlike (and thus non-sexual). These 'large-D' Discourses
have been identified as possible reasons for a lack of decline in the rates
of pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease amongst young people despite
an overt focus on such topics in sexuality education. The theory is that
because they have not developed a sense of agency in relation to sexuality,
young people are ill-equipped to navigate the risks of sexual activity. A
question which remains is exactly how sexual agency is negotiated through
'small-d' discourse (e.g. 'talk'), by young people in classrooms.

This study focuses on language usage during classroom discussions of
sexuality in order to shed light on linguistic strategies that young people
employ in order to position themselves (or not) as sexual agents during
sexuality education, and how they respond to being similarly positioned,
both by others and by their classroom resources. In order to gain an
understanding of the working dynamics of the school and classroom, an
ethnographic approach was employed. The researcher participated in classes
for a period of time before the sexuality programme began in order to
observe relations between the participants, including the distribution of
power amongst teacher and students. These observations were essential to
comprehending the understandings that participants bring to the processes
and activities under study. This approach also permitted the tracing of the
emergence of a community of practice in this classroom. Through close
attention to language via poststructuralist discourse analysis, it has been
possible to demonstrate how interactants performatively lay claim to (or
avoid) sexual agency in this community of practice. By actively
participating in discussions of sexuality, the students, both boys and
girls, experience being placed in sexually agentive subject positions. They
respond in various ways; sometimes aligning, sometimes resisting, other
times resignifying those positions in complex interactions of masculinity,
femininity, desire, and sexual identity. Finally, the findings of this
thesis are assembled in order to consider implications for the study of
language and sexuality as well as considering the importance of discursive
positionings (by teachers and classroom resources) for future student
possibilities in terms of sexual agency development.

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