Sex Education and the Problematization of Teenage Pregnancy: a Genealogy of Law and Governance

Date01 June 1998
DOI10.1177/096466399800700205
Published date01 June 1998
Subject MatterArticles
SEX
EDUCATION
AND
THE
PROBLEMATIZATION
OF
TEENAGE
PREGNANCY:
A
GENEALOGY
OF
LAW
AND
GOVERNANCE
DANIEL
MONK
Keele
University,
UK
ABSTRACT
This
essay
provides
a
theoretical
examination
of
the
law
regulating
sex
education
and
focuses
in
particular
on
the
way
in
which
it
responds
to
teenage
pregnancies.
Adopt-
ing
a
post-structural
approach,
it
seeks
to
demystify
the
’common-sense’
political
consensus
in
Britain
that
the
current
rate
of
teenage
pregnancies
is
a
’problem’,
by
examining
how
they
are
problematized
by
the
social
constructions,
and
moral
and
economic
values
and
calculations
within
dominant
political
discourses.
It
then
demonstrates
how
these
constructions
translate
into
conflicting
solutions,
or
pro-
grammes,
of
health
education
and
moral
education.
In
demonstrating
how
these
pro-
grammes
are
deployed
to
govern
child
sexuality,
this
essay
identifies
a
variety
of
techniques
of
government,
such
as
how
different
meanings
and
attributes
are
given
to
words
like
’children’
and
’parents’
and
’health’
and
’biology’;
how
the
knowledge
and
expertise
of
health
professionals
are
legitimized
within
a
particular
location
and
how
the
curriculum
structure
itself
performs
a
particular
function.
In
examining
the
role
of
law
throughout
this
process,
this
essay
demonstrates
how
the
law
concerning
sex
education
operates
outside
of
a
repressive
juridical
model
and
is
able
to
connect
the
aspirations
and
aims
of
the
state
with
more
positive
uses
of
power.
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INTRODUCTION
I
EX’
AND
’education’
both
occupy
contested
politicized
terrain.
The
provision
of
state
education
has
been
radically
transformed
by
ex-
tensive
legislation
enacted
by
the
Conservative
Governments
since
1979
(Meredith,
1992;
Harris,
1993).
Similarly,
moral
and
political
debates
SOCIAL
& LEGAL
STUDIES
0964
6639
(199806)
7:2
Copyright ©
1998
SAGE
Publications,
London,
Thousand
Oaks,
CA
and
New
Delhi,
Vol.
7(2),
239-259;
004108
239-2
240
concerning
issues
of
sexuality
frequently
appear
to
occupy
’a
front-line
in
the
battle
for
the
future
of
western
society’
(Weeks,
1985:17).
As
a
result
sex
edu-
cation,
located
at
the
point
of
intersection
between
these
issues,
is
a
contro-
versial
site
of
public
policy
and
the
laws
in
this
area
have
been
a
focus
for
highly
politicized
struggles.
In
particular
conservative
’moral
panics’
(Watney,
1987:
38-57)
around
issues
such
as
teenage
pregnancies,
HIV/AIDS
and
homosexuality
have
conflicted
with
demands
for
pragmatic,
liberal
responses
to
child
sexual
activity.
The
structure
and
content
of
sex
education
are
intimately
linked
to,
and
act
as
an
indicator
of,
current
political
aims
and
struggles
within
society
and
provide
an
opportunity
to
examine
one
of
the
ways
in
which
a
modern
society
attempts
to
regulate
the sexual
behaviour
of
children.1
1
Existing
work
in
this
area
focuses
on
the
political
struggles
surrounding
sex
education
(Durham, 1991 ;
Meredith, 1992;
Thomson,
1993,1994)
or
takes
a
more
legalistic
approach
(Blair
and
Furniss,
1995;
Harris,
1996).
The
aim
here
is
not
to
support
or
criticize
policies
or
to
adjudicate
between
the
rights
of
parents,
children
and
the
state
but,
rather,
to
trace
the
conditions
of
possi-
bility
that
have
given
rise
to
the
present
structure
of
sex
education.
This
approach
owes
much
to
the
work
of
Michel
Foucault
and,
in
particular,
to
his
suggestions
that
historical
events
can
not
be
understood
as
the
result
of
logical
progressions
with
a
single
origin
and
an
essential
truth
but,
rather,
that
the
processes
that
give
rise
to
the
events
are
’discontinuous,
divergent
and
governed
by
chance’
(McNay,
1994:
89).
The
theoretical
model
utilized
here
follows
the
approach
of
sociologists
Nikolas
Rose
and
Peter
Miller,
which
identifies
three
levels
of
analysis:
the
discursive,
the
programmatic
and
the
technological
(Miller
and
Rose,
1992).
The
discursive
level
focuses
on
political
rationalities,
or
discourses,
which
occupy,
’a
domain
for
the
formulation
and
justification
of
idealized
schemata
for
representing
reality,
analysing
it
and
rectifying
it’
(p.
178).2
However,
the
influence
of
discourse
on
policy
is
dependent
on
a
process
of
translation3
of
their
objectives
and
representation
of
reality
into
concrete
programmes.
The
programmatic
level
consequently
deals
with
the
art
of
the
possible
and
to
this
end
programmes
’lay
claim
to
a
certain
knowledge
of
the
sphere
or
problem
to
be
addressed’
in
order
to
make
it
’amenable
to
management’
(p.
182).
Finally
it
is
at
the
technological
level
that
discourses
and
programmes
through
a
’complex
assemblage
of
diverse
forces’
become
’capable
of
deploy-
ment’
(p. 183).
Adopting
this
approach
serves
to
reveal
how
the
current
structure
of
sex
education
is
the
result
of
a
process
of
struggle
at
each
of
the
above
levels
and
that,
in
its
aim
to
govern4
child
sexuality
by
normalizing5
attitudes
and
behav-
iours,
it
incorporates
a
complex
network
of
competing
knowledges
and
tech-
niques.
Significantly,
tracing
the
political
struggles
back
to
the
discursive
level
reveals
how
different
meanings
and
attributes
are
given
to
words
such
as
’children’
and
’parents’
and
’health’
and
’sex’
and
how
in
turn
these
con-
structions
serve
to
justify
the
implementation
of
various
exercises
of
power.6
6
This
article
begins
with
an
examination
of
how
dominant
political

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