Danger and disease in sex education: the saturation of ‘adolescence’ with colonialist assumptions

Macleod, C. (2009) Danger and disease in sex education: the saturation of ‘adolescence’ with colonialist assumptions. Journal of Health Management, 11 (2). pp. 375-389. ISSN 0972-0634



Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/097206340901100207


The United Nations Development Programme’s Millennium project argues for the importance of sexual and reproductive health in the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals. Sex education programmes, aimed principally at the youth, are thus emphasised and are in line with the specific Millennium Development Goals of reducing the incidence of HIV and improving maternal health. In this paper I analyse recent South African sex education and Life Orientation (a learning area containing sex education) manuals. Danger and disease feature as guiding metaphors for these manuals, with early reproduction and abortion being depicted as wholly deleterious and non-normative relationships leading to disease. I argue, firstly, that these renditions ignore well-designed comparative research that calls into questions the easy assumption of negative consequences accompanying ‘teenage pregnancy’ and abortion, and, secondly, that the persistence of danger and disease in sex education programmes is premised on a discourse of ‘adolescence’. ‘Adolescence’ as a concept is always already saturated with the colonialist foundation of phylogeny re-capitulating ontogeny. Individual development is interweaved with collective development with the threat of degeneration implied in both. This interweaving allows for the instrumentalist goal of sex education in which social changes are sought through changing individuals’ sexual attitudes and behaviour.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Catriona Macleod is Professor and Head of Department of the Psychology Department at Rhodes University in South Africa. She has published extensively in the areas of ‘teenage pregnancy’ and abortion, taking a specifically postcolonialist, feminist and post-structuralist approach to these issues.
Uncontrolled Keywords:sex education; adolescence; teenage pregnancy; abortion
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Psychology
ID Code:1523
Deposited By: tracy morison
Deposited On:12 Feb 2010 13:41
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:17
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