Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Absent but present: a critical analysis of the representation of sexuality in recent youth policy in the UK

an article by Allison Moore and Phil Prescott (Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK) published in Journal of Youth Studies Volume 16 Issue 2 (March 2013)


Current youth policy in England and Wales utilises ‘transition’ as the major framework for understanding young people’s movement from ‘youth’ to ‘adulthood’.

Underpinning this are developmental assumptions about who young people are and who they ‘should’ become, especially with regard to sexuality. ‘Childhood’ and ‘youth’ are conceptualised as asexual or pre-sexual categories and those young people who are deemed to have sexual knowledge are problematised.

Transitions to adulthood are inescapably heteronormative: the movement to adulthood is not simply about becoming an adult, but about becoming a man or a woman conforming to compulsory heterosexuality. Current youth policy says little about young people’s sexuality and when it does it frequently conflates sexual behaviour with sexual health.

Drawing on the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu and, in particular, his concepts of field, habitus and symbolic violence, it will be argued that despite the rhetoric of participation, engagement and inclusion in current youth policy it continues to perpetuate and naturalise the symbolic order between ‘adults’ and young people and continues to position youth sexuality as potentially dangerous.

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