Young people are creating their own rules for what's right and wrong when it comes to sex, a new study reveals.
In the past, public panic about young people's sexualisation has drowned out the voices of the people involved. But new research by Dr. Sarah Winkler Reid asked young people directly what they think about sex and morality.
Dr. Reid found that young people create their own set of sexual ethics for the playground when she conducted unstructured interviews with 15 to 16 year olds.
School is a crucial stage in defining the sexualities of young people. Reid's research shows that schools contain a self-regulated microcosm with its own morality rules. Sometimes these rules are harsh, but they are evidence that young people are capable of active self-regulated and ethical appraisals.
For example, sexual double standards remain: if a girl has sex she's a slag, if a boy does the same he can brag.
However, the stereotypes are less rigid. Girls who have sex aren't instantly labelled 'slag'.
In the playground, relationship status, appearance and attitude, is taken in to account. Also, the number of 'encounters' contributes to your status, and what age you are. Yes, there is even a socially designated acceptable age amongst peers in the playground.
Girls no longer portray themselves as pure and chase. They want to look knowledgeable, not naοve, and on the playground, knowledgeable no longer means promiscuous.
Research into sexuality and ethics often places young people as passive objects, assuming that they learn sexual morality from society. This places young people in a position where they have no responsibility for the course of their moral development.
The young people that Dr. Reid interviewed demonstrated mature evaluations of sexuality, suggesting that young people are not just passive receptors for society's standards after all.
- Sarah Winkler Reid. ‘She’s not a slag because she only had sex once’: Sexual ethics in a London secondary school. Journal of Moral Education, 2014; 43 (2): 183 DOI: 10.1080/03057240.2014.893423
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