THE POLITICS OF PLEASURE

Introduction

For different reasons, both children’s sexualities and women’s sexualities have been denied and erased in scientific and popular discourses, with the sexualities and sexual pleasures that are best understood being those of adult men. In the first part of the module, we will consider the social construction of children as innocent, or as beings for whom the only form that sexuality takes is a threat or danger, and how this protectionist understanding can function to silence and contain children as sexual beings. The denial of children’s sexuality, the construction of children as innocent and asexual, and the focus on sex as a danger for children has resulted in sexual censorship and heated debates around sexual education. As we will see, at the same time as children are constructed as innocent of sexuality, they are assumed to be (future) heterosexuals and are subjected to heterosexualization.

In the second part of the module, we will focus on the clitoris and female orgasm as these have been both discussed and omitted from discussions in sexual education and science. In order to fill some of the gaps left by sex ed and their absence from public discourse, we will situate the clitoris and female orgasm in political and socio-cultural contexts.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Recognize some historical arguments about the construction of childhood and how these relate to sexuality
  • Discuss the politics of sex education and sexual censorship for children
  • Identify some of the ways in which the clitoris and the female orgasm have been discussed by scientists and feminists
  • Define what is meant by epistemologies of ignorance
  • Interpret some of the differences between narratives of sexual pleasure for men and women in contemporary society

BIG IDEAS +
LESSON

ASSIGNED RESOURCES

SUMMARY