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Sexuality - Research Paper Example

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A growing body of research works with issues of language and gender and/or sexuality in the field of education. …
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Download file to see previous pages... In recent years, diverse authors in critical applied linguistics have highlighted various dimensions of power inequalities in the exploration of social identities (e.g., Varney, 2002; Simon-Maeda, 2004). The contribution of this critical approach has highlighted the need to challenge the reproduction of unjust power relations. It has also suggested strategies for empowerment and social transformation. However, this approach has been limited, to some extent, in its applicability to issues of gender and sexuality due to the influence of social constructionism. Mohr (1992) defines a radical social constructionist perspective as one that posits human beings as "blank slates" whose behaviors are determined by the influence of environmental factors. Mohr criticizes what he sees as a disregard for evidence of the role of biological factors in matters of gender and of sexuality.
However, an acute focus on biological dimensions also has significant limitations. Sears (1997) evokes this problem in his analysis of sexuality education in most Western educational contexts: "Relying heavily on biology and side-stepping issues of morality, teachers seldom employ the social sciences and the arts to explore the labyrinthine social structures of sexuality and gender" (pp. 275-276). Dimensions of morality, emotional depth, non-conscious processes, and individual imagination in gender and sexuality are sometimes lost in approaches where subjects seem to be determined either by biology or by their participation in language and culture.
In his article on agency and identity issues surrounding sexuality, Phillips (1996) remarks that social constructionism is now "[T]he dominant paradigm, indeed orthodoxy, within gay and lesbian cultural studies" (p. 105). This paradigm has limited success in initiating dialogue on gender and sexuality issues with those who conceptualize and experience their own sex and sexuality as solid facts, rather than the cumulative product of socio-cultural acts (Mohr, 1992). While Nelson (1999) lauds queer theory's slogan of "acts not facts," it has to be noted that the reverse position-facts, not acts- seems to be the perspective of the majority of practitioners in education. Indeed, Phillips argues that many students also feel this way with regard to their sense of self for sexual identities. On the one hand, then, there is a body of literature in critical applied linguistics and in queer studies (e.g. Perrotti & Westheimer, 2001; Wyss, 2004) that asserts a social constructionist perspective on gender and sexuality identities. The basis for this approach is often taken from a type of psychoanalytic drives theory that accords primal positivity to all expressions of sexual desire. This dominant perspective in academic spheres seems to have little potential for changing the contrasting perspectives of the majority of participants in education, and in society at large, where attention to the moral dimension of sexuality issues is prevalent. This perspective finds no point of connection with discourses that specify few moral parameters in considering diverse issues of sexuality such as the age-of-consent for minors, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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