Sexual socialisation in Life Orientation manuals versus popular music: responsibilisation versus pleasure, tension and complexity
Young, Lisa Saville
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This paper compares two forms of sexual socialisation to which learners are exposed: the sexuality education components of the Life Orientation (LO) manuals and the lyrical content and videos of popular songs. We performed a textual analysis of the sexual subject positions made available in, first, the LO manuals used in Grade 10 classes and, second, the two songs voted most popular by the Grade 10 learners of two diverse schools in the Eastern Cape. Of interest in this paper is whether and how these two forms of sexual socialisation – one representing state-sanctioned sexual socialisation and the other learners’ chosen cultural expression that represents informal sexual socialisation – dovetail or diverge. Against a backdrop of heterosexuality and an assumption of the ‘adolescent-in-transition’ discourse, the main sexual subject positions featured in the LO manuals are the responsible sexual subject and the sexual victim. A number of sexualised subject positions are portrayed in the songs, with these subject positions depicting sex as a site of pleasure, tension and complexity. Although these two modes of sexual socialisation use different genres of communication, we argue that learners’ choice of songs that depict fluid sexual subject positions can help to inform LO sexuality education in ways that takes learners’ preferred cultural expression seriously and that moves away from the imperative of responsibilisation.