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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Pleasure and politics in Norwegian sex education. This article was downloaded by: Sexuality, Society and Learning Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date.
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Sex Education1—14, iFirst article Elusive sex acts: While a focus on homosexuality is included in the national curriculum at all levels of compulsory education, the sexual practices involved in same- sex relations remain conspicuously absent from the education provided. This paper Downloaded by [Stine H. Bang Svendsen] at The political challenges to good sex education in Norway emerge when this absence of sex acts is addressed by innovative teaching programmes that focus on sexual pleasure.
Norwegian political consensus about a free and equal sexual culture does not seem able to embrace the discussion of specific sexual practices in the classroom. One textbook recounts that: The content and framework of Norwegian sex education present problems that cannot be solved only by improving coverage and quality. Research on sex education in Norway reveals major shortcomings that attempts at reform informed by both the feminist, and lesbian and gay movements have thus far failed to address.
These issues, which will be discussed in further detail, primarily involve the absence of discussion about sexual practices and desire in sex education.
Queer sex acts have been a notorious example of such practices, as has pornography, and prostitution. In the Nordic context, the zone of sexual privacy is similarly constituted by regulations of public, and represented sex. Sweden notably criminalised the purchase of sex in efforts to further restrict prostitution inand Norway followed suit in By the term straight, I indicate both staying on the path of sanctioned sex practice, and heteronormative presumptions about suitable age, gender and number of sex partners.
I am particularly Downloaded by [Stine H.
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While acknowledging the link between queer and brt practices in both English and Scandinavian usage, I strive to retain the broad understanding of non-normative sex practices described by Rubinwhich I believe is also instructive for understanding a substantial part of heterosexual teenage sex practices as inherently troubling, approaching queer, in their non-normativity.
Although adult acceptance of and support for teenage sex are likely to be higher in the Nordic context, the general notion of much teenage sex as queerly placed holds true. This makes queer critique a rdsl interesting starting point for discussing political challenges to good sex education.
Schools have been significant tools in this respect. For sex education, this means that schools and providers are less concerned with parental reactions than seems to be the case in Anglo-American contexts Alldred and David8. While the potential for progressive initiatives in sex education that state feminism provides has been used to a certain degree in Sweden Lennerhedthis has thus far not been the case in Norway. The inclusion of sexual minorities in the sex education curriculum seems btyt far to have resulted in something more like tolerance education than sex education.
This does not mean, however, that discussing sex as practice in education is any less unsettling. While sexuality as a public knowledge system can become Downloaded by [Stine H. While homosexuality is included in the national curriculum at all levels of compulsory education, the sexual practices involved in same-sex relations remain conspicuously absent from the education provided. In what follows, I provide an overview of contemporary Norwegian sex education, and discuss its primary shortcoming: The political consensus brytt a free and brgt sexual culture does not seem able to tolerate the discussion of specific sexual practices in the classroom.
An overview of Norwegian sex education Norwegian rfal education is provided through cooperation between schools, public health services and civil society.
In practice, teachers facilitate sex education periods and sessions where they: Sessions tend to be concentrated in a project week in Year 9 or 10 ages 14 —15where the timetable is collapsed to allow focus on one theme. Norwegian research on sex education provision is insufficient, and only gives indications about national coverage.
However, comparison with much better Finnish data highlights some strengths and weaknesses. Finnish national survey data shows that sex education was taught on average for Another significant difference can be found in teacher training. While one-third of teachers who are responsible for sex education in Finland have special training, as do school nurses, few Norwegian teachers have such special qualifications Kontula Their mandate is to prevent the spread of STIs and decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies among young people.
The comparison above with the Finnish situation shows that coverage is not only variable, but also insufficient. Efforts to double the teaching hours and to allocate the responsi- bility for sex education to specific teachers with certification, in addition to school nurses, have had considerable effects on knowledge levels in the student body in Finland Kontula This should in itself be enough reason to make similar efforts in Norway.
The Norwegian political consensus sketched in the introduction indicates that a number of common complaints about the content of sex education from feminist and queer perspectives should already have been dealt with. This is partly the case. Students are given necessary information about contraception in relation to heterosexual intercourse, as well as the basics of sexual ethics in a comparatively sex positive model.
Teachers begin from the presumption that students will experiment, and that they will have a number of sexual partners, albeit one at a time. Furthermore, teachers and school nurses address issues concerning sexual harassment and sexual assault within a framework where men rather than women are considered responsible for these problems.
Girls are provided with free access to the contraceptive pill through rrsl school health services from the age ffsl 16 the age of consent Bartz They learn about the right to have an abortion, the medical aspects of it and their free rfsll to abortions through public health services. Finally, they are expected and required to respect homosexuals, and are introduced to being gay as an option at an early age between six and nine years old; see Figure 1.
The national curriculum is by far the most important political tool for changing content in schools. This overview shows that a number of social and ethical issues in sex education figure prominently in the Norwegian curriculum.
It also shows a heavy insistence on teaching about sexual orientation in various ways. Topics included in the Norwegian sex education curriculum.
This discrepancy between political ambition and teaching practice can be traced back to the lack of teacher training in sex education. Without any training in how to address sexual practices and desire, teachers fall back on the narrative of reproductive heterosexuality that most feel more comfortable with.
Similarly, teaching tolerance towards homosexuals does not seem to require special knowledge. The result of this situation bryy sex education which lacks any solid address of sexual practice among young people, in spite of progressive political intent and good intentions on behalf of providers. Missing sex acts Textbooks are written to comply with the curriculum, and can be seen as guiding interpretations of it. This heteronormative medical and biological discourse about reproduction and pleasure has received extensive feminist critique Martinbut this does not seem to have registered with textbook authors in this field.
Pleasure, then, is discussed in the imaginary framework of reproductive utility. When pleasure is addressed in this way, coitus typically becomes the only sex act that is explained clearly and with reference to how erogenous zones are stimulated.
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The following quote is a telling example rffsl these problematic depictions: The notion that clitoral stimulation is somehow extra, and Downloaded by [Stine H. As Fine pointed out, this failure to assert agency through knowledge about desire and pleasure in young women effectively puts them at risk for various types of victimisation. While the term is on one level meant to cover every kind of sexual stimulation in relation to oneself and others, it is most commonly used as synonymous with coitus.
Fine and McClelland— 1 I quote Fine and McClelland at length rfdl I believe it is possible to argue that the many young, white, heterosexual, brt or upper class, able-bodied adolescent women and men rdsl the Nordic context enjoy the mentioned conditions for developing thick desires to a significant degree. Education policy-makers and teachers who have welcomed this approach are likely to find this critique unfair, as they have pursued a line of action advocated by the gay and lesbian movement over the past decades.
In both Norway and Sweden, the gay and lesbian movement has provided schools with programmes in support of tolerance pedagogy, based on coming out stories Bromseth and Wildow This agenda explicitly leads attention away from queer sex, and towards matters of sexual identity. It is remarkable how intensely political and desexualised homosexuality is in Norwegian sex education. It has been a basic insight in queer theory that what is understood as a struggle for gay liberation has involved conceptually moving the site of gay sex from efsl public to the private, from the cruising grounds to the bedroom Berlant rbyt Warner While homosexuality has been included as normal, unconventional sex acts are no longer on the Norwegian sex education agenda.
The T as haunting abject Another crucial point in the politicisation of homosexuality, and its introduction in sex education as an object of toleration, has been a staunch denial of relations between homosexuality and male femininity and female masculinity. The entire issue of gender identity seems to have become such a haunting abject phenomenon in the development of gay and lesbian liberation in the Nordic context.
The reason is that I consider their exclusion from lesbian and gay politics, btyt hence from queer issues in sex education, constitutive of the agenda for gay and lesbian inclusion and liberation that the movement, and eventually the state, have opted for. The issue with separating out facets of the social rfls fit a particular political agenda is indeed the inevitable haunting that Sedgwick points to.
For the Nordic lesbian and gay movement, the ascendance to inclusion, marriage rights and gender normalcy coincided with the rise of the question of the B and T in the movement.
By invoking the T in relation to abject haunting, I am not merely implying that issues concerning gender identity haunt the Norwegian sex education agenda, which is based in identity politics. I want to suggest, albeit speculatively, that the straightening out of gay and lesbian identities through politicisation has made them inhospitable, and sometimes uninhabitable, to queer youth. Queer youth do not overall seem comfortable in this gender order with its intact hierarchies between heterosexual and homosexual practices.
If the rrfsl among young Norwegian queer activists is anything to go by, they increasingly opt for various trans identities to better express their queer subjectivities.
This critique, as well as the one noted above about the desexualisation of homo- sexuality that has accompanied its inclusion in sex education, echoes the fundamental queer critique of sexual liberation agendas based in identity politics: I have already noted that the struggle for civil partnership rights, and later marriage rights, in Norway has been significant for subsequent changes in sex education for sexual minorities.
This connection can be further understood by the historical intersection between marriage and sexual liberation that Janet R. Sex Education 9 Religious repression is constitutive of the Enlightenment notion of secular freedom, she notes. Nordic societies are more vested in Lutheran Protestant secularism than dfsl USA could ever claim to be, sporting near-universal Lutheran state church traditions rfzl with record low religiosity Bartz ; Statistics Norway That sexual freedom for homosexuals should be symbolised by partnership and marriage rights in this light is no strange occurrence.
This does not, of course, challenge the notion that heteromonogamous family life defines the normative core of this sexual culture. Granted that sexual politics can change without significantly changing representations Downloaded by [Stine H.
On the basis of current initiatives in Norwegian sex education, I suggest that this might be possible through education that focuses on sex acts and pleasure, rather than the politics of sexuality. The unsettling potential in pleasure Ingham has noted that sex and relationship education programmes are almost exclusively evaluated with attention to public health outcomes, and that this renders several other aspects invisible, significantly sexual pleasure.
This argument for teaching to give oneself and others sexual pleasure bryf possibly be listed among sexual health outcomes.