, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 37-50

Left to their own devices: Disciplining youth discourse on sexuality education electronic bulletin boards

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Abstract

In contrast to the strict regulation of school-based sexuality education, Internet-based sexuality education has virtually free rein over its content and pedagogical methods. One common feature of sexuality education websites is an electronic bulletin board system (BBS) that facilitates peer education and exchange. A grounded-theory study and analysis of the BBSs sponsored by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and by the Coalition for Positive Sexuality (CPS) were performed, and many thematic similarities and points of divergence between the respective BBSs emerged. Although both organizations advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, the BBS on PPFA’s Teenwire website is moderated by adults, whereas CPS does not moderate discussion on its BBS. Analysis indicated that this subtle exertion of age-based authority played a role in shaping and censoring BBS discourse. These data are used to highlight the capacities of youth, critique age-based hegemonic practices, and support youth-positive sexuality education policies and practices.