In one of my previous blogs I wrote about how girls’ academic achievement was related to a new standard of femininity that girls need to live up to. Recently, I came across an article that shows yet another way academic achievement may influence girls (sexual) development.
In their article ‘“It’s Like Doing Homework” Academic Achievement Discourse in Adolescent Girls’ Fellatio Narratives’, April Burns, Valerie Futch and Deborah Tolman describe how young girls use norms surrounding academic achievement when making sense of their sexual behavior.
It seems that in cultures that have a dominant discourse of academic achievement, which “… frames the primary purpose of education in terms of the achievement of high grades and standardized test scores, rather than preparation for college, employment or civic participation”, girls can incorporate such values in other aspects of their lives as well, including their sexual behavior.
The authors found that girls tend to talk about engaging in sexual behavior such as oral sex, in a manner that resembles how they talk about doing homework and test-taking at school: it’s a job that needs to get done, that they need to practice to become good at, and that they expect to be evaluated for. Performance anxieties that girls may have about taking tests at school, including fears of failing and the need to perform (as) well (as others), may have entered girls’ sexual lives.
Girls’ narratives of their own sexual pleasure, a “positive” discourse of sexuality in relationship, or consequences of sexual behavior such as STIs, pregnancy or rape, were rare. Whereas the physical sexual satisfaction seemed to be of boys alone, girls’ satisfaction was the pleasure in a job done well, and correctly.
The authors do not imply a direct causal relationship between the academic discourse and girls’ sexual behavior. They also suggest that the planning, preparation, and practice of sexual behavior may be a way to gain mastery and to understand what can easily feel out of control. However, it is an interesting thought that it may not just be sex-education itself, but also what is being taught at school about the importance of achievement, that affects young girls’ sexual lives.
Burns, A., & Futch, V.A., & Tolman, D.L. (2011). “It’s Like Doing Homework” Academic Achievement Discourse in Adolescent Girls’ Fellatio Narratives Sexuality Research and Social Policy
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