Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Among Contemporary Youth: Volume 23

Cover of Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Among Contemporary Youth

Generation Sex

Subject:

Table of contents

(13 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xviii
click here to view access options
Purpose

The sexual lives of religious youth and young adults have been an increasing topic of interest since the rise of abstinence-only education and attendant programs in many religious institutions. But while we know a lot about individual-level rates of sexual behavior, far less is known about how religious organizations shape and mediate sexuality. We draw on data from observations with youth and young adult ministries and interviews with religious young adults and adult leaders from Muslim, Hindu, and Protestant Christian groups in order to examine how religious adults in positions of organizational authority work to manage the gender and sexual developments in the transition to adulthood among their youth. We find three distinct organizational styles across the various religious traditions: avoidance through gender segregation, self-restraint supplemented with peer surveillance, and a classed disengagement. In each of these organizational responses, gender and sexuality represent something that must be explained and controlled in the process of cultivating the proper adult religious disposition. The paper examines how religious congregations and other religious organizations oriented toward youth, work to manage the gender and sexual developments in their youth’s transitions to adulthood. The paper draws from a larger project that is studying the lived processes of religious transmission between generations.

Methodology/approach

Data were extracted from (a) ethnographic observations of youth programming at religious organizations; (b) ethnographicobservations with families during their religious observances; (c) interviews with adult leaders of youth ministry programs. The sample includes Protestant Christian, Muslim, and Hindu organizations and families.

Findings

The paper presents three organizational approaches toward managing sex and instilling appropriate gender ideas: (a) prescribed avoidance, in which young men and women are segregated in many religious and educational settings and encouraged to moderate any cross-gender contact in public; (b) self-restraint supplemented with peer surveillance, in which young people are repeatedly encouraged not only to learn to control themselves through internal moral codes but also to enlist their peers to monitor each other’s conduct and call them to account for violations of those codes; and (c) “classed” disengagement, in which organizations comprised of highly educated, middle-class families do little to address sex directly, but treat it as but one aspect of developing individual ethical principles that will assist their educational and class mobility.

Research limitations/implications

While the comparative sample in this paper is a strength, other religious traditions than the ones studied may have other practices. The ethnographic nature of the research provides in-depth understandings of the organizational practices, but cannot comment on how representative these practices are across regions, organizations, or faiths.

Originality/value

Most studies of religion and youth sex and sexuality either rely on individual-level data from surveys, or study the discourses and ideologies found in books, movies, and the like. They do not study the “mechanisms,” in either religious organizations or families, through which messages are communicated and enacted. Our examination of organizational and familial practices shows sex and gender communication in action. Further, most existing research has focused on Christians, wherein we have a comparative sample of Protestant Christians, Muslims, and Hindus.

Purpose

Amid widespread social and cultural shifts and advocacy toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights remain a hidden population of homeless adolescents who are cast out from families and communities because of their sexual and gender orientation. The result is an over-representation of LGBT adolescents among the homeless in the United States. The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of literature and research which explores the status and needs of LGBT homeless adolescents in the United States.

Methodology/approach

To understand the experiences of LGBT adolescents leading up to and during homelessness, I provide a thematic and critical review of four decades of research to connect our understanding of the LGBT homeless experience with institutional and collective efforts that work to promote their well-being.

Findings

Bringing together this body of literature, I explore four interrelated questions. First, has the rate of homelessness increased for LGBT adolescents in recent decades? Second, what is the experience of LGBT adolescents who become homeless? Third, what role does advocacy and support play in ameliorating the difficulties these young people face? Finally, what role can future research and policy play in shaping the well-being of LGBT adolescents who become homeless?

Research limitations/implications

Understanding the experience of homeless LGBT adolescents and the collective advocacy efforts designed to promote their well-being offers insight into the intersection of symbolic, inter-personal, and institutional forces which shape their trajectories.

Purpose

Historically, it has been common practice for doctors and parents to withhold the diagnosis from their minor intersex patients. This study seeks to integrate intersex youth experiences into the growing body of literature on diagnosis disclosure for intersex patients.

Methodology/approach

Using gender structure theory as a model, 16 intersex youth were given in-depth surveys regarding their experiences with their intersex identity in individual, interactional, and institutional contexts.

Findings

Participants more positively experience intersex than the earlier generations of intersex people. They were not deeply troubled by their diagnosis as doctors have historically feared, and they are open about their diagnosis with their non-intersex peers and teachers. They also find peer support valuable.

Research limitations/implications

Data was collected from a single event and cannot represent all intersex youth. Future research must continue to engage with intersex youth experiences both inside of and beyond activist and support group networks.

Practical implications

These findings are strong exploratory evidence for the importance of diagnosis disclosure for intersex youth. Policies of withholding intersex diagnoses in clinical and familial contexts should be reevaluated in light of the experiences of intersex youth.

Social implications

Diagnosis disclosure for intersex youth creates the potential for increased medical decision-making participation and increased capacity for activism and community building around intersex issues.

Originality/value

Our results encourage future studies that center the experiences of intersex youth, for we conclude that theorizing the lived experiences of intersex people is incomplete without their perspectives.

Purpose

The emergence of gender-nonconforming behavior in a child presents an opportunity and, often, significant pressure for parents to question the gender beliefs they have taken for granted. The purpose of this research is to examine how parents of gender-diverse youth respond to such pressures and ultimately come to understand and support their children’s gender identity.

Methodology/approach

This research is guided by Ridgeway’s theoretical concept of gender as a primary frame for coordinating social life. Using in-depth interviews with 36 supportive parents of gender-diverse children, the author details the process by which parents developed a critical consciousness of gender and subsequently adopted trans-affirming beliefs in response to their children’s gender-nonconformity.

Findings

Findings illustrate the power of gender as a primary frame for organizing life within the family as well as the circumstances under which hegemonic gender beliefs can be disrupted and alternative beliefs can be formed. The analysis shows that the process of making space for gender diversity within the home, which is taken on almost exclusively by mothers, invokes competing maternal mandates of raising “proper” children versus modeling selfless devotion to children’s happiness and well-being. As mothers navigate these conflicting requirements to create greater gender freedom for their children, they reinforce and perpetuate gender stereotypes that cast women as natural caregivers. Ironically, the work of intensive mothering is also the mechanism through which women come to develop alternative gender beliefs that they then use to expand gender possibilities for their children.

Purpose

This paper, and the corresponding project, is motivated by the lack of qualitative research elucidating the voices of young Black women in Canada when it comes to their sexual health.

Methodology/approach

This paper draws from data produced in the Let’s Talk About Sex (LTAS) project – a Photovoice process held once a week for nine consecutive weeks in the Jane-Finch community, a low-income community in Toronto, Canada. This workshop was completed by 15 young African Caribbean and Black (ACB) women in the age group 14–18. These young women used photography and creative writing to express their opinions on the barriers and facilitators to making healthy sexual decisions.

Findings

A central finding was the existence of a subculture among youth in Toronto, where the exchange of sex for material resources was commonplace. Herein, we unpack the various forms of economically motivated relationships reported, which ranged from romantic relationships to sugar daddies and brothel-like sex dens. We also reflect on the discussions at community forums where the research findings were presented. From shock and outrage to a sly smile of knowing, the responses were often gendered, generational and reflective of a trend occurring across Toronto, not just in the Jane-Finch community, and not merely among the Black youth.

Research implications

Effective interventions and youth programs should focus on the sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV risks that may result from transactional relationships, economic empowerment, and youth employment.

Originality/value

This is a novel arts-based study on youth engaged inthe exchange of sex for money, which has nuanced differences from survival sex.

Purpose

The purpose of this paper was to examine the robustness of the findings on educational advantage among sexual minority men.

Methodology/approach

Using nationally representative data (AddHealth) and controlling for other predictors of academic attainment, we examine the educational attainment of sexual minority males by using hierarchical regression and logistical regression for two measures of sexual identity.

Findings

We find robust differences in educational attainment across analyses and sexual orientation constructs. Our results show sexual minority identity predicts up to a year more of education for male respondents and consistently reporting male homosexuals have an even greater advantage, more than one and a half years, compared to inconsistent responders.

Originality/value

Our results extend previous research on educational outcomes for nonheterosexual adolescents, suggesting there are sustained differences in long-term educational outcomes for nonheterosexual adults and supporting earlier analyses of the AddHealth survey data. This study contributes to the existing literature by examining educational attainment as measured by continuous years and cut-points, using two measures of sexual orientation, providing estimates for all Wave 4 sexual minority identities (i.e., not collapsing any sexual minority category), and controlling for adolescent school geography and type. Moreover, we find early identification of sexual orientation and stability of sexual orientation may be an important source of variation in identifying LGBTQ adolescents who are at greater academic risk or who may benefit from increased social support.

Purpose

To utilize LGBTQ affirmative theory to inform clinical work which affords queer youth with disabilities agency and authorship in their negotiations of sexuality.

Methodology/approach

The authors use a case study to explore the use of queer affirmative theory and peer consultation to guide and evaluate an ongoing clinical case of a young gay man with cerebral palsy as he negotiates his developing sexuality amid powerful messages from media, pornography, friends, and parental influence.

Findings

This paper finds that a queer affirmative therapy model which explores themes of intersectionality, and utilizes nuanced views of sexual identity, sexual behavior, and gender identity are useful to practitioners to encourage agency and authorship for queer disabled people in their negotiations of ability, sexuality, identity, and behavior.

Originality/value

This paper provides an alternative approach to nurturing queer identity by (1) creating refuge for emerging sexualities; (2) allowing for difficult dialogues where ability, sexuality, and gender can be pragmatically discussed, performed, and negotiated; (3) tolerating the discomfort of these difficult dialogues and pushing through to nurturing the unique queerness that evolves out of these conversations; and finally (4) encouraging transformation of all participants including client and practitioners. The practitioners discuss their own transformation through the co-created dialog with each other and with the client.

Purpose

This paper explores the benefits of teaching young people about sex through a sexual debut framework.

Methodology/approach

Dominant conceptual frameworks that shape young people’s introduction to sexual intimacy are analyzed.

Findings

Sexual debut is a process by which young people are given the power to decide the who, what, when, where, why, and how of their first sexual encounters. The evolution and nuances of young people’s first sexual engagements can be understood through the interface of culture, social, and psychological contexts, language, actions, experiences, and how they transform those processes into their own conceptualization of sexual behavior and involvement with it.

Research limitations/implications

This framework explains a process by which young people engage in particular sexual acts at a particular time and place with a certain partner. It allows for future data gathering and analysis to refine this model.

Practical implications

Benefits of teaching children they have power to influence with whom they want to become sexually active, what types of sexual activities they want to experience, when they wish to engage in those actions, and where they occur should reduce the risk of abuse, rape, and harm.

Social implications

The debut model challenges abstinence approaches to sex education. The implications of this research reinforce the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to support young people’s participation to influence their lives and well-being.

Originality/value

It provides a realistic view of sexual experimentation and has the potential to reduce risk and increase young people’s well-being.

Purpose

Adolescence is a period of new experiences, including dating. Romantic relationships can be a source of stress; one-third of teens experience dating violence (Molidor & Tolman, 1998; Straus, 2004). Teens are also at a heightened risk for suicide; it is the third leading cause of death among teens (Center for Disease Control [CDC], 2013a). Suicidal ideation, threats, and attempts occur within the context of a relationship where there is also dating violence (Chan, Straus, Brownridge, Tiwari, & Leung, 2008; Else, Goebert, Bell, Carlton, & Fukuda, 2009). Due to life course, adolescence may not have knowledge, experience, or skills to manage these situations. Furthermore, these experiences may shape romantic relationship expectations as adults. Both dating violence and suicidality have short- and long-term effects (for example, see Castellví et al., 2017; Coker et al., 2000; Exner-Cortens, Eckenrode, & Rothman, 2013; Holmes & Sher, 2013; Jouriles, Garrido, Rosenfield, & McDonald, 2009; Magdol et al., 1997; Zaha, Helm, Baker, & Hayes, 2013). However, little is known about how young women that experience teen dating violence and partner suicidality respond (except, see Baker, Helm, Bifulco, & Chung-Do, 2015). This study seeks to explore this gap.

Methodology/approach

As part of a larger study, 16 young women who had experienced a “bad dating relationship” as a teenager also disclosed that their boyfriends had threatened suicide. These young women completed in-depth, retrospective interviews to discuss their experiences. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using HyperResearch. Life course and grounded theory guided this research.

Findings

The young women that experienced suicidal threats by their dating partners were also victims of a range of abusive behaviors in their dating relationships, including verbal, physical, and sexual abuses and controlling behaviors. The young women struggled with how to deal with the suicidal ideation and the abuse concurrently. Some of the young women believed that the threats of suicide were real, and had concerns for their boyfriends’ well-being. Others believed that their boyfriend was using this as a manipulative tactic to get them the stay in the unhealthy relationship. This impacted how young women dealt with and reacted to the abuse, including if they chose to stay in the relationship or not.

Research limitations/implications

This study provides narratives from young women in relationships where there is dating violence and threats of suicide, which adds to our understanding of the dynamics of how life course impacts both dating violence and suicide. The sample is small and not generalizable. Future research should include both partners to provide a more holistic picture of the relationship. Additional research should also examine any differences of experiences based on gender, race and ethnicity, social class, and sexual orientation.

Practical and social implications

This has serious implications for prevention education and intervention. Policy-makers may want to consider: (1) mandating additional training for teachers and other adults that work with teens, in order to identify warning signs of both dating violence and suicidal ideation, (2) require education for teens on these topics, and (3) ensure evidenced-based interventions are accessible to teens dealing with these issues.

Originality/value

This paper provides a deeper understanding of teen experiences with suicidal threats and how they respond to them within the context of an abusive dating relationship. Policy-makers, advocates, school personnel, and youth may benefit from these findings, particularly in regard to developing appropriate prevention education and interventions.

Purpose

In this paper, I look at one of the most archetypal of children’s stories, that of Noah and the flood, to understand the classificatory schema it presents.

Methodology/approach

Drawing on an analysis of 47 children’s picture books based on the biblical story, including those held in the historical archive of the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton, I show that the single most consistent frame for the story is the trope of “two by two”, referencing both the animals and people in the story. The books in the sample, intended for children aged 4–10 years, were published between 1905 and 2006, and are between 14 and 60 pages long.

Findings

The repeated emphasis on mated pairs, one male and one female, serves to reproduce the twinned categories of gender and heterosexuality in an overtly “natural” fashion that ties the animal bodies to human social divisions. These constitutive categories of social division – gender and heterosexuality – then become central schemas for organizing people and experience. I draw on Martin (2000) arguing that children encounter picture books before they have had experience in actual social life. Therefore, the books help instill these primary categorization schemas in children, creating the social groupings and relations among them that order their worlds.

Originality/value

The argument makes a strongly causal role for culture and argues that the impact/importance of the content of children’s books may be subordinate to the role they play in helping establish classificatory schema that help construct children’s understandings of the social world.

click here to view access options

Index

Pages 241-247
click here to view access options
Cover of Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Among Contemporary Youth
DOI
10.1108/S1537-4661201723
Publication date
2017-11-23
Book series
Sociological Studies of Children and Youth
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78714-613-6
eISBN
978-1-78714-613-6
Book series ISSN
1537-4661