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Peer regulation of teenage sexual identities

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This article examines the teenage policing of heterosexuality in schools and contributes to debates about teenage sexual moralities and heterosexual male agency. It reports on a qualitative study in England of the collective sexual values of 12- to 13-year-olds and 14- to 15-year-olds. Focus group interviews indicated that pupils developed a consensual sexual morality through collusive sex talk. Homophobic and misogynistic views and verbal abuse were found to be key instruments of teenage peer regulation of sexual identities crossing class and ethnic boundaries. We found that the 'official' discourse of sex education did not relate to teenage lives. Anxieties about heterosexual masculinity and girls' sexual agency were conveyed by some boys through verbal sexual harassment--a form of behaviour regarded as intimidating yet normal. While white and Asian boys were more conservative in their views about marriage than girls, white and Asian girls struggled to resist heterosexual masculine power through career aspirations, by questioning marriage and being informed about sexual issues.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Nottingham Trent University UK

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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