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Heads out of the sand: Embracing Complexities of Adolescent Sexuality Deborah L. Tolman, EdD.

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Presentation on theme: "Heads out of the sand: Embracing Complexities of Adolescent Sexuality Deborah L. Tolman, EdD."— Presentation transcript:

1 Heads out of the sand: Embracing Complexities of Adolescent Sexuality Deborah L. Tolman, EdD

2 Research driven by public health agenda shot through with moral panic Cottage industry of (ac)counting for sex(ual intercourse, p-v) and how to predict and control Exclusive focus on bad outcomes

3 Proliferating what constitutes sexuality More than PVI More multidimensional Goal of understanding to support rather than predicting to suppress “Positive” sexuality Not just bad

4 Expected dimension of adolescent development Whole person Part of “healthy development” Relational Shifts in questions Developmental perspectives Orientation: attraction, behaviors, identity Motivations: approach and avoidance

5 Tolman & McClelland (2011). JRA Decade in Review Critical mass of research NOT from a risk perspective Sexuality supplanting sexual development (more than public hair and breasts) Having positive qualities and consequences Sexual selfhood New views on sexual behavior Sexual socialization in 21 st century And yet…80% of 710 articles entrenched in predict and control paradigm

6 Underbelly of cumulative approach Adding “positive” retains fundamental public health conception of sex (the behavior) as bad What might a paradigm shift look like? Adolescent sexuality not a separate phenomenon Both/and quality of sexuality Wide range of strategies to understand and experience bodies, intimate partners and relationships in contexts Manage risks and develop positive patterns for adulthood

7 How do (various, intersectional) adolescents become mature sexual beings? What benefits does sexuality bring adolescents? How does positive sexuality relate to or predict good outcomes? What does sexuality and its development mean to young people? What does asking about sexuality tell us about the joys and challenges of adolescence? How do they differ for different adolescents (individual differences, structural diffrences?)

8 Desire An “obvious” and obfuscated element of female adolescent sexuality Phenomenology of fellatio “It’s like doing homework” (Burns, Futch & Tolman, 2011) Gender ideology Discourses and social processes that shape and undermine healthy sexuality development and relationships Sexualization as a challenge to healthy sexuality Framing beyond negative impacts while recognizing them

9 How does positive youth development enable our imagination about what is difficult about adolescence? Are we able to and should we shift the paradigm? What are implications for supporting youth in a variety of circumstances?


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